Your Common SPF Questions Answered

Undeniably the most important step in any skincare regime but often the one that’s overlooked, SPF (or sun protection factor) is worth swotting up on. From how and when to use it to choosing the best one for your skin, here’s everything you need to know…

What Is SPF And Why Is It So Important To Skin Health?

First up, SPF stands for sun protection factor and it does just as you’d expect… protects your skin from the sun. SPF works by shielding your skin from ultraviolet light which can be very harmful to the skin. Not only does it contribute to poor skin health and accelerated signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation but it can unfortunately have more serious consequences like skin cancer too. In fact, research from Cancer Research UK states that almost 9 in 10 cases of melanoma skin cancer could have been prevented by staying safe in the sun. Wearing SPF is therefore one of the best ways in which you can help keep your skin looking its best.

Does SPF Expire?

Like with most beauty products, especially those with active ingredients, they will have an expiry date. “Most products tend to differ in their approach to expiry dates depending on their individual formulation process,” says Mahmoud. “Some products will have a clear expiry date printed on the product whereas others may refer to a time frame of recommended use once open.” Look for the little icon on the product which shows a lid being lifted off with a number inside. It may say ‘12M’ for example and this suggests using it within 12 months of opening.

Should You Wear SPF Everyday?

By far one of the most asked questions and in actual fact, the one most aren’t adhering to… the short answer is yes. Whilst many think it’s just for sunny or warm days, you should protect your skin everyday regardless of the weather. “Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, your sun is still exposed to UV rays which can be really damaging to the skin,” adds Mahmoud.

What Is The Difference Between Chemical And Mineral SPF?

“Chemical sunscreens work to absorb the UV rays and prevent damage to surrounding skin cells. Mineral (or physical) sunscreens are either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, they also absorb UV, as well as reflecting some of it off the skin” says Mahmoud. Chemical sunscreens are typically lighter weight in texture and have an invisible finish where mineral (or physical) ones can sometimes leave a white cast after application. “This is because they generally contain minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which sit on the skin’s surface,” adds Mahmoud.

What Does The SPF Number Mean?

“Put simply, the SPF number refers to how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet rays,” says Mahmoud. “For example, an SPF 30 will protect your skin for up to 30 times longer than it would without.” This leads us nicely on to…

Is the higher the SPF, the better?

Overall, yes. “I always advise going for SPF 50. We often don’t reapply frequently enough. In addition, the higher the SPF, a measure of the UVB protection, the higher the UVA - so we are getting great broad-spectrum protection.”

What SPF Do I Need?

“For those living in the UK, I’d recommend one between factor 30 and 50 and which protects against both UVA and UVB rays,” suggests Mahmoud. Look for ‘broad spectrum’ on the packaging. When it comes to the formula and texture, this will be personal preference but it’s often said that the best SPF is one you like wearing. If you need a helping hand, check out our current favourites for different skin types below.

How Much SPF Do I Need To Apply?

The answer to this is probably more than you think. “For optimum protection, the general rule is two fingers length worth,” Mahmoud advises. You should be able to drizzle or squeeze this out onto your index and middle finger as a guide. Be sure to cover your whole face and take it down your neck and décolletage too. Products like sticks and mists can be harder to quantify, which is why I advise to use these as top ups, rather than relying on them for full coverage.”

Do You Put SPF On Before Or After Moisturiser?

“SPF should always be applied as the last step of your morning skincare routine,” says Mahmoud. “It should always be applied after your chosen serum or moisturiser but before any makeup,” he adds.

My Foundation Has SPF In It… Is This Enough?

The general consensus on this one is no. This is because of the amount of foundation you’d need to apply to be fully protected. Using the two finger method above, you’ll probably find you’ve got far too much. Our best advice is to always use a specific SPF product before any makeup.

Will SPF cause my skin to break out?

A good SPF will not clog your pores. It’s important to wear sunscreen if you break out, to help tackle the pigmentation that might occur after active spots.

Should I be applying SPF to my scalp?

The scalp is an area where we see a lot of sun damage, most often in men, who have lost their hair prematurely. Sunscreen is essential for exposed scalps and areas like the parting may also need protecting. Hats are an excellent way of protecting against the sun, in this area too.

The Best SPF For Oily Skin

Try Heliocare 360° Oil Free Gel SPF 50

Heliocare 360° Oil Free Gel SPF 50

The Best SPF For Dry Skin

Try Alumier MD Sheer Hydration Broad Spectrum SPF 40

Alumier MD Sheer Hydration Broad Spectrum SPF 40

The Best SPF For Sensitive Skin

Try Heliocare 360° A-R Emulsion

Heliocare 360° A-R Emulsion

The Best SPF For Normal Skin

Try ZO Daily Sheer Broad Spectrum SPF 50

ZO Daily Sheer Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Updated: Published:

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