07 May 2019
The shelves will be full of sun creams and lotions this summer – but which one should you buy?
Does cut-price mean it won’t be effective? Are you simply paying for the brand name when you fork out for the expensive stuff?
Dr Manjit Kaur, a Consultant Dermatologist at Spire Little Aston Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, looks at which sunscreens provide the best protection – and you don’t have to break the bank to get the best!
She says: “When choosing a sunscreen, make sure you check the UVA star rating as well as the SPF (sun protection factor). Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is transmitted in three forms UVA, UVB and UVC.
“UVC radiation cannot penetrate the earth's atmosphere and so does not reach our skin. Therefore, we only need to protect our skin from UVA and UVB.
“In general, UVA is the one associated with skin ageing - which gives you wrinkles, leathery skin and brown spots, and UVB is the one that causes sunburn and skin cancer but there is some crossover between the two’
“When you buy sunscreen, it will be labelled with a SPF and a UVA star rating. The SPF is on a scale of 6 to 50+ with SPF 6 to 14 providing the least amount of protection against burning and skin cancer, and 50+ having the strongest protection from UVB.
“The UVA star rating ranges from 0 to 5. The British Association of Dermatologists (www.BAD.org.uk) recommends using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and a UVA star rating of 4 to 5 as a good level of protection.
“If you are going to swim in the sun, it is also important that the sunscreen you use is labelled as water-resistant so it does not wash off easily. However, you will still need to reapply it after bathing to ensure you have adequate protection throughout the day. I always advise reapplying the sunscreen regularly- even if it is labelled as ‘once a day’.
“You may have your own favourite or you may just opt for the cheapest one in your supermarket but the main thing to check is the protection value and not the price. I’d also avoid relying on makeup or skincare containing SPF- there is no substitute for a dedicated sunscreen.
What is the future for sunscreen? “Whilst protection from UV is still the most important for skin cancer protection – UV light actually only makes up 7% of the sun’s rays. About 50% is made of infrared-A (IR-A) and this seems to have some role in skin ageing. Traditional sunscreens do not have IR-A protection but products are now appearing with triple protection to include UVA, UVB and IF-A. High energy visible light (HEVL) may also be important in pigmentation type damage in darker skins.”
“And remember, whatever sunscreen you choose, if you don’t keep ‘slapping it on’ it just won’t give you the protection you need!”