• Anne Huang

Sunscreens, sun cream, sunblocks & SPFs – are you confused yet?

Stay sun safe!

It’s getting sunnier and warmer which means summer is round the corner (ish)! There are a lot of misconceptions about tanning, sunscreens and SPF. I hope this post can help to dispel a few myths and give you some helpful tips!

What is SPF?

SPF is a measure of protection from UVB rays from the sun. UVB are the kind that causes skin to burn and contribute to cancer. The higher the SPF the better so, for example SPF 30 will be better than 15. However SPF does not measure UVA rays, which are also damaging to skin.

How is SPF calculated?

The Sun Protection Factor was introduced in 1974, and the number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation takes to start to burn, versus the time without any sun protection. For example, using an SPF 30 should take you 30 times longer to burn than if you were not wearing any sun protection (source:

So, does that mean the higher SPF the better?

In general, yes – SPF 30 allows 3% of UVB rays to hit the skin whereas SPF 50 allows 2%. However there are two types rays and SPF only measures UVB. When choosing sunscreen make sure it says ‘broad spectrum’, this ensures it will help to block out some UVA rays too. Remember if you are using a higher SPF you still need to apply as often as a lower SPF. We tend to think the higher the SPF the less we need to reapply. This is false and this mentality can often lead to more burning. Remember to apply 30 mins before you leave the house, reapply as often as you can and reapply after swimming, or sport even if you’re using a waterproof cream.

Are all sunscreens created equal?

No. There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. There are a few potentially harmful ingredients in chemical sunscreens such as Octylcrylen, Avobenzone and Octinoxate which can cause skin irritation (some studies suggest it can also affect sperm count in men, disrupt the endocrine system). Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays. The skin absorbs rays and the chemicals cause them to change usually to infrared rays. This is called the electromagnetic radiation effect (source: If you have sensitive skin it might be worth trying physical sunscreens instead.

Physical ones can sometimes be called mineral sunscreens and contain more natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These tend to be more skin friendly but also tend to be tricky to spread on the skin evenly. It can also leave a chalky hue to the skin. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting UV rays - it acts like a physical barrier.

It does not necessarily mean one is better than the other as both are approved by health services however I always like to give as much information as possible so people can make their own decision.

I only need to wear sunscreen when it’s sunny, right?

No, UV rays penetrate clouds so they still reach us when it’s overcast. Your best bet is to wear it on exposed skin every day, even in winter (sometime winter sun is even more harsh), cloudy and rainy days. Some people also like to wear sunscreen whilst flying as the higher altitude means stronger rays.

I have darker skin so I don't need SPF?

That is 100% not true. If you have more melanin in your skin you still need to protect yourself from UV rays. This kind of thinking can be dangerous as you are putting your skin health at risk. There are two types of skin cancer. Latinos, Chinese, and Japanese Asians tend to develop (BCC) basel cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer. But the second most common, (SCC) squamous cell carcinoma, is more frequent among African Americans and Asian Indians and is much more difficult to treat successfully (source:

Bottom Line?

For whatever reason (wrinkle prevention, skin health etc) it's best to always protect your skin from harmful UV rays that have been proven to cause cancer. It's up to you what type of sunscreen you use - chemical or physical - but make it is BROAD SPECTRUM and at least SPF 30. If you can remember to wear it on exposed areas every day then great! You can also protect your skin by wearing a wide brimmed hat, UV ray blocking sunglasses, UV protective clothing.

Personal Recommendations:

I wear sunscreen every day. Due to my lupus the sun can cause flare ups. I wear SPF 50 on my face all year and in the spring and summer I reapply every few hours as well as cover up with light clothing. In winter I apply to exposed areas such as hands. Always use a specially formulated cream for the face and remember to put cream on your eyelids! Body cream can be too harsh for sensitive eye areas and can cause irritation.

I like to use:

SkinCeuticals SPF50 physica sunscreen:

I use this Bare Minerals tinted gel cc cream if I need foundation. I layer this on top of my SPF50:

This is a good physical body sunscreen

This is a good chemical body sunscreen

Don't forget your lips!


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