SPF is one of the three scientifically proven steps in your routine that can make a visible difference in how the skin ages – the other two are vitamin C and retinol.

It’s not just the sun protection it provides, it also acts as a barrier against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. “Sunburn and health risks aside, overexposure to the sun is also a real villain in the fight to keep skin looking young,” Dubai’s go-to skincare and laser expert Rebecca Treston explains. “In fact, new research reported in the medical journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, suggests that UV rays are responsible for around 80 per cent of skin ageing: wrinkles, reduced skin elasticity, increased pigmentation and a degradation of skin texture can all be caused by overexposure to sun.” Scary? Yes.

Many of us wear SPF on a daily basis, yet may give less thought to the actual level of protection we choose. We assume that SPF10 is low and SPF50 is high, but these numbers are significant when it comes to knowing exactly how much time you can safely be exposed to the sun. If you are wearing SPF15, you would be protected for 150 minutes longer than if you weren’t wearing SPF at all, for example. It’s also good to note that there is a bigger difference in terms of protection between SPF15 and SPF30 than there is between SPF30 and SPF50. According to experts, SPF15 absorbs 93 per cent of UVB, SPF30 absorbs 97 per cent and SPF50 absorbs 98 per cent when applied thoroughly.

La Mer SPF

La Mer UV Protecting Cream SPF50 Dhs395


“Numerous studies show that sunscreen users apply far less sunscreen than they should, which can lower the protection they expect to have,” Treston explains. “For instance, when someone applies only 25 per cent of the expected amount of SPF 30, the sunburn protection on the skin is actually only 2.3 per cent. Someone who applies SPF 100 too sparingly can endure a result of SPF functionality as low as 3.2 per cent. In the real world, these products are less effective than T-shirts, which generally have an SPF5.” Another trap we can fall into is assuming that applying a little bit of high protection is enough to last us the whole day. “We have become more reliant on higher-rated SPFs, meaning we are less, not more, safe in the sun,” Treston continues. “It is also important to remember that SPF only protects against UVB rays, but it is, in fact, UVA rays which cause cancer. So even with a high SPF you are not guaranteeing protection against melanoma. In fact, because UVA and UVB protection do not harmonize, high-SPF products suppress sunburn much more effectively than other types of sun damage.”

Kiehl's SPF
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF50 Dhs177

“Also, high-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than low SPF sunscreens. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin, where they have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. Some may trigger allergic skin reactions. If studies showed that high-SPF products were better at reducing skin damage and skin cancer risk, that extra chemical exposure might be justified. But they don’t, so choosing sunscreens with lower concentrations of active ingredients – SPF 30 instead of SPF 70, for example – is prudent,” she concludes.

Aesop SPF
Aesop Protective Body Lotion SPF50 Dhs140

The next hurdle is deciding on a chemical on physical sunscreen. Physical options reflect the UV light so it doesn’t enter the skin, while the chemical variety penetrates your skin and absorb the UV light which is then converted into heat, neutralising its impact. If you prefer an invisible result that is also heat resistant, then chemical sunscreens should be in your beach bag, while physical sunscreens are ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Treston recommends carefully looking at the ingredients and avoiding pre-formed vitamin A, including retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate and retinyl linoleate which can cause a variety of health problems, from brittle nails to liver damage. “It is a good idea to look for sunscreens that do not contain these ingredients so you are not at risk of excessive vitamin A exposure,” she says.

Dermalogica SPF

Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF 30 Dhs270

An SPF of  30 or more should be an integral part of our daily skin routine and applied as a separate product, even if there is SPF in your foundation. Be generous with the amount, avoid excessive sun exposure and always have a small bottle with you to apply to exposed areas as needed. If nothing else, this savvy sun shield helps you achieve a well-honed level of bronze while avoiding any damage.

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Images: Supplied