Even though most of us never hesitate to apply sunscreen on holiday or on sunny days at home, digging out a bottle in the winter may not come naturally. But is it really necessary to wear SPF in any weather?
What is SPF?
SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of how much protection a sunscreen will offer against UVB rays. These rays damage the outer layers of the skin and are the main cause of sunburn which increases your chances of developing skin cancer. The longer you stay in the sun without sun protection, the greater your chances of burning. The sun in the UK is strongest from March to October so it’s wise to apply a sunscreen with at least SPF15.
What do the SPF ratings mean?
The numbers you see on your sun cream or lotion are ratings based on the level of protection they offer. For example, factor two offers the lowest form of UVB protection and 50+ offers the strongest protection.
What does the star rating mean?
While most of us pay attention to SPF, the star rating on our bottle of sun lotion is also important. This measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection, with a rating of up to five stars being the highest shown on UK sunscreens. UVA targets the skin more deeply than UVB and is a key factor in skin wrinkling and aging. Choose a “broad spectrum” sunscreen as this indicates that it offers both UVA and UVB protection.
What SPF is the best for my skin?
A four-star UVA protection and SPF 15 is recommended for most people as a shield against the sun’s rays. However, this can differ depending on your skin type. For a boost of added moisture, those with dry skin should opt for cream or gel-based products. If you have oily or spot-prone skin, oil-free sunscreens will protect you from the sun without clogging your pores. Oil-free, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products are ideal for sensitive skin as they contain fewer chemicals.
Do you need to wear sunscreen in the winter?
Though it may be cold outside and summer is long gone, you’re still at risk of burning, even on cloudy days. In winter, reflected light from snow, sand and water can also intensify your exposure to UV rays. Unless you’re a spending a long time out in the winter sun, an SPF or SPF-containing moisturiser will help protect you against short periods of UV exposure. Sunscreen is best saved for extended UV exposure, which includes spending an hour or so outside.
Does wearing SPF all year lead to Vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D is created by our bodies from direct sunlight on our skin when we’re outside. From October to March, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB for our bodies to absorb vitamin D. However, sun safety is still important so make sure to protect your skin whenever it’s exposed to the sun. Eating oily fish, eggs or using a supplement are alternative sources of vitamin D.