Sunscreens – tips, tricks and why you should wait for 30 mins before sun exposure

Something I’m extremely passionate about is sun care. I’m terrified of premature ageing and skin cancer and living in SA means that I’m literally guaranteed exposure. A friend asked me last week what sunscreen I’d recommend for spending hours standing in the sun (he was umpiring a cricket match). While I don’t really have a favourite brand, my biggest concern with sun care is the correct USE of sunscreen. There are, of course, a few things to look out for when purchasing sunscreen, but unless you get the application right, it really doesn’t matter what you’re using.

1. Choosing a sunscreen: what to look out for:

  • Get the highest SPF you can find. The higher the SPF, the more protection you get. I’ve heard people say they use a low SPF so that they at least get a bit of a tan. First, a tan is damage. It means you’ve burnt. Second, SPF is measured by the amount of time it takes to burn with that product on so it’s not so much about the amount of protection as it is about the time it was tested for. Using a lower SPF means you have to get out of the sun sooner.
  • Look for broad spectrum: the sun’s rays range from UVA to UVB. UVB is the one that causes sunburn (think “b” for burning), UVA is the one that gives you age spots (“a” for ageing – how simple?). Although UVA is stronger (it’s the one that goes through things like clouds and glass meaning you’re still exposed on an overcast day or in the car), they both do a significant amount of damage.
  • Keep an eye out for words like “sun block” and “waterproof” – according to the European standards that we in SA adhere to, these words aren’t allowed to be used on products because they can be misleading. Chances are the sunscreen doesn’t comply with other standards and regulations too. The correct use of these terms is “sunscreen” and “water-resistant”.
  • Look for the EU symbol. It’s this one:







2. Applying your sunscreen correctly:

  • Use the right amount. The recommended amount is a shot glass full for your entire body. In this case, less is definitely not more.
  • Apply at least 30 minutes BEFORE you go into the sun. The Beauty Brains just posted a fantastic article explaining why you need to do this. Summary? Sunscreen takes time to form a film on the skin that actually protects you. The ingredients that make the product water-resistant need to dry first – otherwise you’re just washing off the sunscreen you took such pains to apply.
  • Don’t use a product from last season. Seriously, it’s sunscreen. It doesn’t cost a fortune and using the same one from last year puts you at risk. See on the bottle where it says store in a cool, dry place? That means that leaving it in the car for the entire summer holiday or on a hot beach for 12 hours is going to affect the product’s efficacy. It will destabilise the formulation and your sunscreen filters won’t be as effective. Buy a new sunscreen at least once a year. Turn over any of your cosmetics and look for this symbol. See the number? That’s the amount of months the product will last before you should chuck it.


  • Get the right sunscreen. If you don’t like the greasy-feel, don’t go for an oil-base. There are tons of matte effect sunscreens available these days. Do a bit of shopping around and find something that you’ll feel comfortable applying. Don’t just stick with the same product you’ve been using since you were 12. There have been loads of new developments in sun care (and SA is often a big part of the research that goes into these developments). And no, a moisturiser with an SPF15 or 25 is not enough.



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