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Everything you need to know about everyday sun care

While the sun is an instant mood booster, it can also be incredibly harmful to your skin. Here, RHEA CARTWRIGHT asks the experts to answer our burning SPF questions

Beauty

Contrary to popular belief, SPF isn’t seasonal. Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is a daily task, irrespective of where you are or whether the sun is shining. Yes, the benefits of vitamin D are endless, but in order to absorb this essential nutrient safely, you must first shield your skin from sun damage – and prevent premature aging.

How to apply sunscreen correctly

Sun protection is always the last step of your skincare routine. “SPF should be applied anywhere your skin is directly exposed to the sun,” explains aesthetician and founder of West Room Aesthetics, Dija Ayodele. “Your face and hands are the most exposed part of your body, so defense here is key to ensure your skin is protected from sun damage including burns, hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and potentially skin cancer.” SPF is the final step in your skincare regimen and should be applied 20 minutes before going outside. Ayodele adds that it is also important to remember that sun damage can occur even on a cloudy day – or even indoors, if you are sitting by a window. “Applying SPF daily is necessary, even if the sun doesn’t feel hot or strong.”

How much SPF should I use?

According to New York-based dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross, SPF should be applied liberally. “The recommended amount is 2mg/cm² – enough to coat the entire surface area of exposed skin.” This often equates to half a teaspoon or two-finger lengths of sunscreen. “Apply a thorough coating of sunscreen that is thick enough to block out the sun and don’t skip any part of the skin’s surface, as that creates vulnerable, unprotected skin.” Remember to rub SPF onto your neck, chest and décolletage, as well as your lips, tops of the ears, and into your hairline too.

Who should wear SPF?

Well, everybody. The sun does not discriminate and, despite common misconceptions, all skin tones need to apply SPF to ensure that they are protected. Although darker skin tones are slightly more resilient to the sun, they can still burn and are susceptible to damage. According to dermatologist Dr Hope Mitchell, those with darker skin tones are unfortunately more likely to succumb to skin cancer – because they incorrectly think they are less at risk. “People with darker skin are often diagnosed at a later stage – and therefore have a poor survival rate when diagnosed. The five-year melanoma survival rate is 65% in Black people, versus 91% in white people.” Thankfully, the latest SPF launches are often suitable for all skin tones and are without an ashy, white cast.

Should you use a chemical or mineral SPF?

Providing you use a broad-spectrum sun protection that protects against UVA and UVB rays, whether you opt for chemical or mineral sunscreen is a matter of preference. Physical filters, which are typically less irritating, sit on the surface of the skin and block the UV rays. Chemical filters, which tend to have a thinner consistency and therefore sit better under makeup, work within the skin and absorb them like a sponge. If you’ve been relying on the SPF in your makeup, it’s time to take it up a level. “While having SPF in makeup is a great add-on, the quantity of SPF is not sufficient to provide adequate sun protection,” says aesthetic doctor, Dr Barbara Kubicka. “A dedicated sunscreen that is specifically formulated to provide concentrated amounts of protection is key.” Ultimately, the best sunscreen is the one you will enjoy wearing day in, day out.

The best way to remove SPF

Cleansing is essential on any day but even more so when wearing sun protection. “SPF is like hairspray, in that it is formulated to stick to your skin and stay put as much as possible,” says Ayodele, who advises double cleansing to break down the SPF first. “I recommend an oil-based or balm cleanser as a first cleanse before following up with a face wash that is appropriate for your skin type. If you do not remove your SPF properly, it can lead to skin irritation, breakouts and blocked pores.”

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