The experts tell us how to do sunscreen properly – and without messing up your make-up …
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. The Irish Cancer Society report that there are over 13,000 cases each year and this number is expected to double by 2040 (see www.cancer.ie). With nine out of ten cases being caused by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds, we need to reduce our risks. With May recognised as Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a timely reminder of how important it is to wear SPF every day, all year round and not only in the summertime.
The fact is we need to wear SPF EVERY DAY, regardless of the weather, the season or what we’re doing. Even when it’s cloudy. The experts at Irish Skin recommend we particularly wear SPF from April to September, when the intensity of UV is greatest. And we should ideally use SPF30 and above (nothing under SPF15). Most people living in Ireland have fair skin (skin type one or two), which burns easily, and so is particularly vulnerable to sun damage and worse.
The Majority of Adults Don’t Use SPF
But many of us are just not getting the message on how important this is – or not acting on it. A large proportion of people are still not wearing any SPF at all, or only applying when it’s sunny.. Recent research carried out for LloydsPharmacy (a national online survey conducted by Empathy across 1,010 adults) shows that two-thirds of Irish adults questioned don’t apply suncream during the summer months – despite knowing the negative effects of sun exposure. Just over a third (36 per cent) of adults questioned claim they only apply SPF in the summer months, with 70 per cent saying they don’t apply SPF even when abroad in a sunny destination. This is pretty shocking stuff.
And it tallies with another recent study (by skincare brand Cerave, of 10,000 people across 23 countries), which found that only 18 per cent of people surveyed are applying SPF; just 20 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 are applying SPF daily. A L’Oreal survey (of over 17,000 adults) found that only 26 per cent of the women were applying SPF daily – and just 10 per cent of men. All this despite 88 per cent of those knowing that sun exposure can lead to damage.
Sunscreen every day
Don’t swerve the sunscreen. That is what every dermatologist in every country in the world will tell you. You’re wasting your money if you’re buying skincare, from pricey serums to moisturisers, but not protecting your skin on a daily basis with SPF.
New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr Nkem Ugonabo says: “Wearing sunscreen every day is one of the most important ways to keep skin healthy. I recommend everyone – regardless of skin type, tone or texture – wears sunscreen every day, all year round. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that wearing sunscreen can minimise short and long-term damage to the skin from the sun’s rays.”
Sunscreen acts as a shield for skin cells, protecting skin from damaging UV rays. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are associated with premature ageing of the skin, while Ultraviolet B (UVB) cause sunburn. So wearing SPF is crucial to reduce your risk of skin cancer and protect against sunburn – let alone helping us to avoid the early onset of wrinkles and fine lines, and more. “Sun exposure on unprotected skin can have a negative impact on the skin barrier leading to increased irritation, peeling, sensitivity and inflammation,” says Dr Ugonabo. “Sun exposure is associated with increased risk of skin cancer, as well as premature ageing (such as wrinkles and sun spots).”
Remember that UV from artificial sources, such as sunbeds, greatly increase your risk of skin cancer, and with so many good self-tans available now, there is just no reason to even consider using one.
How to wear sunscreen properly
When it comes to sunscreen, SPF50+ offers the highest protection, if you are spending the day in the sun, or go outside at midday, this is what you need to be wearing.
If you’re still not sure where your SPF fits in your daily skin routine, it’s the last step – ie after moisturiser. If wearing make-up, apply it before your foundation. And even if your foundation has an SPF in it, it’s much better to wear a separate SPF for proper protection.
To achieve the SPF on the bottle, you need to apply enough product. And that means more than you think – at least one teaspoon for each body part, eg each arm, leg, head/face/neck. For just your face, another way of measuring is to line your forefinger and middle finger with a line of SPF – that’s how much you need for your face and neck.
You should apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun, and then reapply frequently (every two hours). And combine broad-spectrum sunscreen alongside practical measures such as shade, clothing, hats and so on.
Check out the SunSmart section on www.Irishskin.ie, which highlights vital information. For example, many of us are not aware that over 90 per cent of UV can pass through light cloud; and under water, UV is still 40 per cent as intense at half a metre depth under water as it is at the surface. And some UV can pass through glass, including the side and rear window of your car – so if you sit next to a window, spend long periods of time driving, or even work in a greenhouse, you need to protect your skin.
Making SPF work with make-up
Many of us avoid SPF because it messes with our make-up. But this doesn’t need to be the case. Suzie O’Neil of AYU shares her top tips:
“SPF should be a part of your daily skincare routine, even if you’re not wearing foundation. It’s also a good idea to choose a foundation with SPF for an added layer of protection. Choose a foundation that works well with your skin type and doesn’t cause any irritation or breakouts. Similarly, you should also choose an SPF that suits your skin type and provides the level of protection you need. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts, it’s a good idea to choose an SPF that’s labelled as non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. You should also look for a foundation that is hypoallergenic or non-irritating, and avoid ingredients that can irritate your skin, such as fragrances or alcohol.”
1 Apply SPF: “Ultimately, the most important thing is to use an SPF that provides adequate protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Even in the UK and Ireland, where the sun doesn’t always seem that strong, you should choose an SPF with at least 30 protection. Apply it evenly all over your (clean) face, including your neck and any other exposed skin, and then wait a few minutes for the SPF to absorb into your skin before moving on to the next step. If you find that your foundation is sliding around or separating on top of your SPF, it could be because the SPF hasn’t fully absorbed into your skin yet.
2 Apply primer (optional): If you usually wear primer before your foundation, you should apply it at this stage. Using a primer before your foundation can help create a smooth base and prevent your foundation from separating or sliding around. This will also make your overall look last longer. Opt for a primer that is specifically designed to work well with both SPF and foundation.
3 Apply foundation: Once you have your SPF (and primer) base, now apply your foundation as you normally would, using a brush, sponge or your fingers. Make sure to blend it well, especially around the hairline and jawline. Not all SPFs are created equal, and some may not work well with your skin type, or the foundation you’re using. If your SPF isn’t work well under your foundation, try switching to a different formula, for a better combination.
4 Reapply SPF: If you’ll be spending time outdoors, make sure to reapply your SPF every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. To do this on top of your foundation, it’s best to use a spray or powder SPF rather than a lotion or cream. This will help prevent your make-up from smudging or moving around. Hold the spray or powder SPF at least six inches away from your face to ensure that it is evenly distributed and doesn’t cause any clumps or patches. If you’re using a powder SPF, use a clean brush to pat it gently onto your skin, to help it blend in. Avoid rubbing or swiping the SPF over your makeup, as this can cause your makeup to shift and create patches.” www.ayu.ie
See our pick of five facial sunscreens that are easy to wear HERE.
Meet The Experts:
Dr: Nkem Ugonabo is a board-certified dermatologist who studied at both Harvard and Stanford University and did her Dermatology Residency at the NYU Medical Center.
Kildare based Suzie O’Neill is a renowned makeup artist and founder of beauty brand Ayu.