Sunscreen Cheat Sheet. The stuff you need to know.

We don’t have to tell you that sunscreen is the most important beauty product in your arsenal. As a generation raised on the Slip Slop Slap campaigns, many of us are pretty au fait with wearing it. But the truth is, most of us aren’t using it properly. We asked solar protection guru, Dr. Geoffrey Heber, who has formulated countless sunscreens during his career as cosmetic physician and founder of Ultraceuticals, to dispel some of the myths and give us some tips around application.  Here are the eight things you should bare in mind next time you start slathering. 

1. BARE IS BEST

If you’re going into full-on sun (e.g. the beach or exercising outdoors) it’s best to apply sunscreen onto bare skin, as it will adhere better and won’t get diluted. However, if you’re going to be inside most of the day, you can get away with putting it on over your regular skincare. Dr Heber recommends using lightweight non-oily products under your sunscreen. Or even better, look for a multi-purpose product and kill two beauty birds with one stone. “The use of a broad spectrum high SPF daily moisturiser will make life easier,” says Dr. Heber. If you’re heading outside at lunch, it’s okay to put sunscreen over your makeup, it will still work, but if you have a makeup wipe handy, wipe your foundation off and apply it to bare skin then reapply makeup over that.

2. PUT ON MORE THAN YOU THINK. 

“Studies have shown that consumers in general apply around 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen for a given area,” says Dr Heber. As a general rule you should apply more than half a teaspoon for each arm and the face and over a teaspoon for each leg, the front and back of the body. And apply it 20 minutes before you go into the sun to give it time to work. 

3. THE SPF RATING IS ONLY HALF THE STORY

The SPF rating says very little about how much a sunscreen protects you from ageing or sun damage. Ultraviolet rays are composed of different wavelengths the harmful being UVA rays (which age you) and UVB rays (which burn you.) ”UVA goes deeper into the skin than UVB, contributes to skin pigmentation and is mainly responsible for the signs of photoageing,” explains Dr Heber, pointing out that SPF only refers to how long you can spend in the sun before you get burnt – not how long you can bask before your skin is damaged.  

4. ONLY BUY BROAD SPECTRUM

To be sure you’re getting protection against UVA rays look for sunscreens specifically labeled ‘Broad Spectrum’. “In Australia, to make the claim “Broad Spectrum” a sunscreen must block 90% or more of UV light from 280nm to 370nm and pass a UVAPF ratio test to determine the ratio of UVA Protection Factor (UVAPF) before and after UV irradiation. Therefore sunscreens in Australia claiming “Broad Spectrum” are very effective for screening UVA rays,” says Dr. Heber.

5. NOT ALL SUNSCREENS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Many broad-spectrum sunscreens can be chalky or create what cosmetic chemists call a “ghosting” effect – where it leaves a white film on the skin. Dr. Heber spent a lot of time tweaking the formula of his new Ultraceuticals SunActive SPF50+ Mineral Face & Body Lotion until he got the texture just right.  “It’s a very effective sunscreen in both the UVB and UVA but it doesn’t have the sticky, chalky, whitening, thick and oily feel common to many SPF50+ sunscreens,” he explains, adding that it also contains other skin-loving ingredients, such as caffeine and ferulic acid to help protect against UV skin damage. 

6. GLASS FILTERS OUT SUNBURN BUT NOT SUN DAMAGE

Next time you’re enjoying a sunny spot in the car or plane, don’t get too complacent. While it won’t burn you, it will damage and age your skin. “UVA light can penetrate glass,” warns Dr Heber.  

7. YOU CAN’T RELY ON THE SPF 15 IN YOUR FOUNDATION

Foundations and cosmetic manufacturers are supposed to test for their SPF rating but they don’t have to register their products with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), so the tests are not as stringent. Also since they are not labeled broad spectrum they won’t protect you from UVA rays. 

8. BURNT? DAMAGE CONTROL STAT

If you’ve had a shocker and ended up a bit pink, all is not lost. Cut your losses and get some serious after sun onto it QUICKLY. Ultraceuticals SunActive Face & Body Recovery Cream is a good start – it contains super hydrators allantoin and shea butter along with antioxidant vitamin E to halt the sun-induced free radical party that’s going on in your cells after a burn. Keep a tube in the fridge for emergencies and apply it after a cool shower. And promise us never to get burnt again.

 

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Story by Sigourney Cantelo. In association with Ultraceuticals