Everything You Need to Know About Sunscreen

Everything You Need to Know About Sunscreen

The topic of sun damage and preventing it is always in the news but can be very confusing. One moment sunscreen is essential to wear everyday and the next it contains harmful ingredients that could lead to cancer. There are so many different grading systems that it is hard to know who to trust and so many formulations, factors and ingredients.

Let’s break it all down.

The Ingredients

What to avoid:

-Oils, especially mineral oil also known as: paraffinum liquidum. Why? It degrades your spf and sits on the surface of your skin not doing a lot.

What to look out for:

-Anti-oxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and green tea. Why? They help fight against damaging free radicals.

-Peptides. Why? They help repair the skin.

-Photostability. Why? If your sunscreen is photostable the UV filters won’t degrade or break down when exposed to sunlight.

Chemical or physical

How do they work?

Chemical sunscreen absorbs the sun’s rays. Physical sunscreens deflect them.

What filters do they use?

Chemical: Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Helioplex, 4-MBC, Mexoryl SX and XL, Tinosorb S and M, Uvinul T 150, Uvinul A Plus

Physical: Titanium dioxide (TiO2), Zinc oxide (ZnO)

Are they Photostable?

Generally both are photostable. Tests have shown avobenzone is not by itself.

Do they cause Skin Irritation?

Chemical: can be irritating

Physical: Titanium dioxide my cause spots

What protection do they provide?

Both provide protection, as long as it is specified that the sunscreen provides broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

What’s the texture like?

Chemical: usually runny, rubs into skin easily.

Physical: may be harder to apply and tends to leave a white cast.

It is entirely up to you whether you use a chemical or physical sunscreen.


A factor below 15 is not adequate. For darker skin a mid factor or above is fine (spf 15+), but remember to reapply. For fairer skins a high spf of 30+ should be worn and frequently reapplied. If you are particularly sensitive (as i am) spf 50+ is best, especially for your face.

How to apply

Before sunscreen apply your usual skincare e.g eye cream, serum and moisturiser. Then generously apply sunscreen (about 1 teaspoon for your face, a few teaspoons per limb and body). If you wear make-up, apply over top. Note: spf in makeup doesn’t provide broad spectrum protection nor does it last all day.


A darker skin doesn’t need sunscreen. False. A darker skin will tolerate UV radiation better than a lighter skin therefore may only need a moderate factor e.g 15 or 20 but it still needs some protection. Everyone needs protection from harmful UV rays. I repeat EVERYONE.

Sunscreen causes spots. It depends. Some may if they contain harsh pore blocking ingredients or are particularly greasy. Look for oil free non-comodogenic (non-pore clogging) sunscreens.

80% of sun damage is done before you’re 18 years old, so know I am over that what will be, will be. False. Only 23% of damage is done early on in life, so you’re skin most definitely needs protecting.

You can’t get burnt on a cloudy day. False. I speak from experience, yes you can. Both UVA and UVB can penetrate through the clouds and cause damage to your skin. If you will be spending a long time outdoors wear sunscreen.

Being inside means I am 100% safe from the sun. False. You’re safe from UVB but not UVA. UVA can penetrate through glass. Either avoid long periods of time by the window or invest in a window film.

I have applied spf 50+ so I am set for the day. False. You need to reapply your sunscreen every few hours especially if you are swimming. Ensure your sunscreen is water/sweat resistant.

I don’t need to buy new sunscreen i’ll take last years. False. Spf has an expiry date. Generally they last a maximum of a year before degrading and not providing adequate protection.

It is so important that you choose a sunscreen you are happy with. If you can’t stand the slimy feel, the synthetic smell or the white residue then don’t buy it! If you hate your sunscreen you won’t use it and you’ll put your skin at risk, so find one you love and your skin will love you!