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What is SPF and how does sunscreen protect my skin?

What is SPF and how does sunscreen protect my skin?

What is SPF and how does sunscreen protect my skin?

Do your eyes glaze over when you read all the numbers and acronyms on bottles of sunscreen?

Perhaps you’re someone who knows that sunscreen is good but are unsure why or what you should look for in a sunscreen. You’re not alone.

The truth is, understanding what SPF is and how it protects your skin isn’t that difficult – and it’s imperative in making informed decisions about which sunscreen to choose.

Let’s break it down for you.

What is SPF and how does sunscreen protect my skin?

SPF refers to the sun protection factor of a sunscreen, and the level of SPF measures a sunscreen’s ability to protect you from UVB, or in technical terms, Ultraviolet B.

UVB is considered by scientists to be the main cause of skin cancer, which makes a sunscreen’s SPF super important.

Essentially, the higher the SPF, the greater your protection, but if you want to understand what the actual number means, you’re going to have to do a bit of maths.

The SPF of a product is calculated by taking the time it takes to get a slight sunburn while wearing the product, compared to the time it takes to get a slight sunburn while not wearing the product.

For example, if it takes 10 minutes to burn with no sunscreen, and 150 minutes with the sunscreen, the SPF is 150/10, which equals 15.

What does broad spectrum mean?

We know that sun exposure means exposure to harmful UVB, but did you know that there’s a lot more UVA in sunlight than UVB?

UVA is the main cause of skin ageing and it can penetrate through windows in a way UVB doesn’t. That’s why so many sunscreens boast that they are broad spectrum, protecting you against both UVA and UVB.

However, there are laws in Australia that regulate the use of the term broad spectrum. Broad spectrum sunscreens are required to provide UVA protection (commonly referred to as UVA-PF) that’s more than one third the SPF.

Does wearing sunscreen have anti-ageing benefits?

Here’s a fun fact that will save you money and will slow down the visible signs of ageing: the best anti-ageing cream on the market is sunscreen.

Wrinkles and sagging skin are caused by the breakdown of collagen and elastin – and nothing does that as quickly and effectively as sun exposure. In fact, experts say that about 90 per cent of signs of skin ageing is caused by the sun.

Exposure to sun is also responsible for pigment spots, visible blood vessels and blotchiness. It’s not good.

If you really want to see the damage sun exposure is causing your skin, compare the areas of your body that have seen sun to those that haven’t. Case closed.

Did you know? Vitamin C can enhance the effectiveness of your sunscreen

Not only does topical vitamin C act as a strong antioxidant to help protect your skin from sun damage, it interacts with sunscreen to make it more even effective as a sun repellent.

If you needed a compelling reason to apply vitamin C, this is surely a good one! However, beware that not all vitamin C serums are created equal, and you should make sure that you are using a medical grade vitamin C. These are usually only available through doctor-led skin clinics.

Our vitamin C antioxidant by SkinCeuticals is one of the most potent and scientifically tested on the market, so you can be assured of its effectiveness.

Can sunscreen cause cancer?

In a world of conspiracy theories and fake news, there are still some hard and fast truths – and the fact is, sunscreen does not cause cancer.

There’s a mountain of evidence that tells us the nanoparticles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide contained in sunscreen do not penetrate deeply into the skin.

Plus, years of research and experience tells us that these nanoparticles that have been used in sunscreen for decades are extremely effective in filtering out harmful UVA and UVB radiation.

Put simply: while sunscreen doesn’t cause cancer, we know that solar radiation definitely does.

Don’t I need sun exposure to get adequate vitamin D?

Sunlight is important for the supply of vitamin D, but it’s certainly not a case of the more the better.

Your body can only produce a certain amount of vitamin D from sunlight. When it has reached this level, exposure to the sun will saturate the skin and actually start decreasing your levels of vitamin D.

As a general rule, five to eight minutes of sun exposure on your face and arms is enough to maintain adequate stores of vitamin D.

Given this, and the potential risk of melanoma posed by sunlight, it’s a much better idea to get your vitamin D from other sources, including salmon, cod liver oil, fortified milk and vitamin supplements.

What we can take from all this is that the easiest and best way to protect your skin from skin cancer as well as the visible signs of ageing is to incorporate a broad spectrum, high SPF sunscreen into your everyday routine. It’s a small, inexpensive step that offers a whole lot of protection for minimal effort.

Speak to the skin experts today

If you’d like to find out more about how to best protect and treat your skin, speak to the skin experts at Bass Coast Skin Doctors.

As a doctor-led skin clinic, our team of practitioners have extensive clinical training and experience, ensuring that you get the correct diagnosis and safe treatment.

We also offer skin cancer checks, dermal fillers and anti-wrinkle injections, and can advise on the best ways to maximise your skin health.

If you’d like to find out more, book a consultation with us today.

Get your Sun Defend and Repair Kit today

Bass Coast Skin Doctors has partnered with SkinCeuticals to offer you the Sun Defend and Repair Kit.

The kit was curated by our clinic director Dr Anthony Rixon to help our patients to get the most from their skin fitness routine over the summer. It comes with two gifts: a dermal roller (valued at more than $100) and a stylish black make-up bag.

You can purchase the kit for $283 in person at the clinic or online here.

Sun Defend and Repair Kit

What’s in the bag?

There are a few goodies included in the bag, which we’re sure you’ll love. They include:

  • C E Ferulic 30 mL or Silymarin CF 30mL: SkinCeuticals is renowned for its highly effective vitamin C formula. Vitamin C is backed by extensive independent research and is a potent antioxidant for preventing skin cells being damaged by free radicals and UV exposure. It also enhances the effectiveness of ultra-facial defense SPF 50+. You can choose the serum best suited to address your skin concerns. C E Ferulic is recommended for skin that is not prone to break outs. Silymarin is ideal for combination and acne skin as it prevents oil oxidation that can lead to break outs.
  • Ultra Facial UV Defense Sunscreen (broad spectrum SPF 50+) 30mL: Designed for the face, this sunscreen does not look or feel like sunscreen, nor will it block your pores or irritate your skin like many sunscreens can do. Importantly, it protects skin from UVA and UVB rays that are known to cause accelerated skin ageing.
  • Dermal roller: Dermal rollers work on the dermal layer of the skin to enhance the uptake of cosmeceuticals and improve appearance.