Do You Really Need To Wear SPF?

The short answer is yes, you really do. Anyone that follows me on Instagram knows that I am constantly talking about SPF, always asking if everyone is wearing it and recently I recommended my favourite products for people that didn’t know where to start or buy. Although a lot of people seemed to go out and buy some of the products I recommended, and now one of them is actually sold out(!), I did still get a few dm’s asking if it was necessary, how often to apply it, will it stop you tanning and will it make you break out etc etc. So I thought I’d do a more in-depth post about how SPF works, repost my favourite brands and hopefully answer some of the queries you had and encourage you to go and buy a good product. As usual, I only use vegan and cruelty-free products so you should not need to double-check any of these brands.

Is SPF safe to use?

In the UK and Europe, there are really strict standards for sun protection products, they undergo rigorous testing to ensure they protect your skin in the way they claim and no less. This applies to the finished product, as well as the individual ingredients that are in the SPF product. The product is tested on a variety of different people with varying skin types and shades, to ensure it works efficiently for everybody. SPF means Sun Protection Factor, and it’s essentially the level of protection it will give you from UVB rays. Typically the British Association of Dermatologists recommends at least an SPF of 30 which blocks 97% of UVB rays: SPF15 would block 93% and SPF 50 would block 98%.

What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

Sometimes the labels are a bit confusing, there’s SPF, UVB and sometimes even UVA. This is ultraviolet radiation and is what causes the damage to our skin. UVA rays penetrate quite deep into the skin, whereas UVB rays being shorter, burns the surface of our skin. You will typically see that most sunscreens offer UVB protection, but some labels are now including UVA on there too. So if SPF rating relates to UVB, it is the star system that relates to UVA protection. They range from 0-5 to indicate the percentage of UVA radiation being absorbed compared to the UVB, i.e: the ratio. A low SPF product could still have 5 stars but this does not mean it has lots of UVA protection, just that the ratio between UVB and UVA is the same. High SPF is just as important as a high UVA rating. When a sunscreen offers high levels of both it is often referred to as a “broad spectrum” sunscreen (so an SPF of 30, with 4/5 UVA stars is ‘good’.

Low protection = SPF 6-10
Medium = SPF 15, 20 and 25
High = SPF 30 and 50
Very high = SPF 50+

In the EU, the UVA protection should be at least a third of the SPF, there will be a UVA logo which is the letters in a circle.

Okay, but what does SPF actually do?

A lot of people think that because they’re not seeing the damage to their skin instantly, that the UV rays are not harmful at all – but actually, sun damage presents itself in many different ways, and it isn’t always your typical sunburn. Uneven pigmentation, sagging and dull skin can also be down to poor protection from UV rays. SPF is also often called youth serum as it can slow down the ageing process that ultraviolet rays can exacerbate (as long as you’re wearing it Of course, the worst outcome of sun damage is skin cancer.
The way SPF works is that organic filters in the SPF absorb UV radiation and convert and gives the energy back out as infrared. This is what is known as a chemical sunscreen. Inorganic filters (‘physical/natural sunscreen’ mineral’ ‘zinc’) contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and these reflect the UV radiation away from the skin. Organic filters are more like sponges, and inorganic filters are like mirrors.

How often should I apply it?

Most people do not apply enough SPF, I believe studies actually found that people often apply less than half the amount that is actually required to give the level of protection indicated on the packaging. People also miss certain areas like the back and sides of the neck, temples and ears (let me now start applying it every day on IG stories to prompt your asses).  Due to the different ways SPF comes in now, it’s not easy to say how much you should apply as a standard amount. Most packaging should state how much but this is not always the case. Generally speaking though, lotions should be around 6 teaspoons (more than 1/2 a tsp each arm, face and neck and just over one tsp to each leg, front and back of the body). I tend to go for one tsp for my face and neck alone though. Applying half the required amount can reduce your protection by two thirds so it really pays off to take your time with the application. I apply at least 20 minutes before I’m going outside, although I won’t lie that when I’m tanning in my garden this is not always the case – I’m not perfect okay! You should reapply it every 2 hours (but more frequently if swimming, sweating a lot or drying yourself with a towel etc). Applying it throughout the day to your face is tricky – I will get int that a bit later. Also, consider the reflection of sun rays when applying sunscreen, it can increase up to 85% from snow, 17% from sand and 5% in the water.

What about my vitamin D?

Sunlight can help the body produce vitamin D, and we need it to help prevent serious diseases as well as keep our bones healthy. We get vitamin D from many sources; our diet with natural food sources as well as fortified foods, and supplements too. There is research still to be done about how significant the vitamin D we absorb through our skin is for reducing the risk for certain diseases. However, the link between sun damage and skin cancer is proven and cannot be shoved aside. Avoiding the sun altogether is not a good idea, nor is it always possible anyway so don’t be afraid of it (unless you are high risk for skin cancer – that’s all my fair skin and/or moley peoples).

I’m Black/darker-skinned, I don’t need to wear SPF because my skin colour already protects me…

Hell to the fucking naw. Yes, you are less likely to burn this is true, but it doesn’t make you immune to UV rays altogether. You may be able to get away with a lower SPF rating but prolonged or harsh exposure will still affect your skin the same way long term as it would for fairer-skinned people. Lots of SPF’s are not darker-skinned friendly, I get that – this is normally the ‘natural’ sunscreens because of the zinc. Everything I will recommend at the end of the post is brown skin-friendly so just wait a minute…

Will it stop my tan?

Yes and no, higher SPF’s applied perfectly (if no UV gets through), will = no damage, and therefore no tanning. However low to medium SPF’s will probably allow you to tan still to a certain degree. Each skin type is different; even when I wear a high SPF I tan really easily but generally, I only wear 30-50 on my face and 20 on my body. Those that have a hard time tanning and often burn gain nothing from wearing a low SPF, you might as well keep your skin soft and plump and even and invest in a good faux tan. If you genuinely think risking skin cancer is worth a little bronzing, then, by all means, get your melanoma sis!!

It makes me break out!!

I feeeeeel this because I had the same issue and it’s why I didn’t wear SPF for years! Sometimes this is because of skin sensitivity to ingredients, but it can also be due to the ingredients being comedogenic (pore blocking). There is a lot of bad, chalky and thicccck (not the good kind) SPF’s on the market, and sometimes it’s a bit of trial and error. It’s not a product I feel you should have to splurge out on, and just because a fancy SPF exists it doesn’t mean you need to pick it over a cheaper alternative if it’s working for you. I’d say that acne/blemish-prone skin should opt for physical sunscreens as opposed to chemical sunscreens because typically they’re less irritating. However, physical sunscreens often give that dreaded white cast more than chemical ones, so careful which one you choose – I believe zinc titanium is doesn’t do this!

Is the SPF in my moisturiser good?

Although the SPF in moisturisers is tested in the same way as normal SPF’s, they are less likely to be rub-resistant, water-resistant and typically we don’t apply a thick layer of moisturiser on our faces; although it may say SPF 30 on the packaging the way it’s being applied will reduce this dramatically. It may be acceptable if you are walking to your car or popping outside for a short task but if you’re going to be exposed to the sun even walking to work for 20 minutes, I would advise investing in a separate SPF.

What do you recommend?

Please see my spf review IGTV on my instagram!

So there you have it! If I haven’t covered something do just drop me a comment on the Instagram post that relates to this blog post and I will do my best to get you an answer! Please wear SPF every day where your skin will be exposed, even if you’re indoors at your desk the rays can penetrate the windows and your skin. Your hyperpigmentation will not improve with the best serums if you’re not also wearing SPF. Don’t age like milk in the sun, protect your skin and stay safe.


Demi – Colleen x