Understanding the difference between UVA and UVB rays and choosing a suncream that offers broad-spectrum protection are essential steps in reducing your risk of sun damage and maintaining healthier skin. To help you navigate sun safety this summer, we asked Clinic Lead at Face the Future, Kimberley Medd, for her expert take.

What are UVA Rays?

“Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is classified into two main types: UVA and UVB. UVA rays have a longer wavelength compared to UVB and penetrate deeper into the skin, reaching the dermis. Face The Future’s YouGov survey found that 53% of UK women are worried about ageing from sun damage, but did you know that it is actually UVA rays which are the culprit for this? These rays are primarily responsible for skin ageing (photoaging) and can contribute to the development of skin cancer. They lead to premature wrinkles, age spots, and can even penetrate through glass. UVA rays are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year.”

What are UVB Rays?

“In contrast, UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and affect the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). UVB is the main cause of sunburn and plays a key role in the development of skin cancer, directly damaging the DNA in skin cells. UVB rays are more intense during the middle of the day and vary with season and altitude. They do not penetrate glass.”

Why should you purchase broad-spectrum suncreams?

“When selecting suncream, it’s crucial to ensure it provides broad-spectrum protection, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. The label “broad-spectrum” indicates that the suncream can protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures how well the suncream protects against UVB rays. But despite knowing the risk of both types of UV ray exposure, our data showed that only 22% of the UK apply SPF daily. This sporadic usage leaves individuals unprotected during regular, everyday exposure to UV rays. Therefore, applying an SPF of 30 daily is generally recommended for adequate protection, but higher SPFs provide even more protection.”

How can you avoid sun exposure?

“In addition to using suncream, there are several strategies to limit your sun exposure and protect your skin. Seeking shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest, is one effective approach. Wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats, can provide a physical barrier against UV radiation. Protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around them with sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Avoiding tanning beds is crucial, as these devices emit UVA and UVB radiation and increase the risk of skin cancer. Additionally, be mindful of reflective surfaces such as water, sand, and snow, which can reflect and intensify UV radiation, increasing your exposure.”

Kimberley’s SPF application guide:

Step 1: Choosing the right SPF

Generally, suncream with an SPF of at least 30 for both face and body is sufficient to ensure that you are protected from the sun. However, for those who are outdoors for extended periods of time or have very fair skin, an SPF of 50 is advisable. Areas with thinner skin, such as the chest and shoulders, may also benefit from a higher SPF. Also, it is important not to skip your lips when it comes to SPF application! Consider a lip balm with SPF 30 for your lips such as the Hello Sunday The One For Your Lips SPF50 Lip Balm.”

Step 2: Apply enough SPF

“The general rule of thumb when it comes to SPF application is two-fingers of suncream or about half a teaspoon. Ensure that you cover your entire face, including your ears and the back of your neck. Use about an ounce (a shot glass full) to cover your entire body, focusing on areas often missed such as the back of your hands, feet, and the back of your legs. For those with thinner hair or exposed scalps, use a sunscreen that is specially formulated for the scalp such as Ultrasun UV Face & Scalp Mist SPF 50 and make sure to wear a hat to avoid over exposure to the sun. Surprisingly, Face The Future’s YouGov survey found that only 22% of the UK apply SPF daily, but it is a crucial step to incorporate into your daily skincare routine, regardless of the weather or season, to protect against incidental UV exposure.”

Step 3: SPF order:

“A common mistake people often make with SPF application is applying their suncream sparsely, forgetting to reapply after contact with water or missing areas altogether. I recommend applying your facial sunscreen first, under your makeup or moisturiser. Use upward strokes to ensure even coverage over the entire face and neck area. It is important to apply suncream to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside. Don’t forget to reapply to your hands after washing them! For hard-to-reach areas like the back, use a spray sunscreen or ask for assistance to ensure full coverage.”

Step 4: Reapplication:

“To effectively protect yourself from the sun, especially during the warmer months, reapplication is essential. Reapply your suncream once every two hours, or immediately after swimming, sweating, or towel drying. I always recommend keeping a small bottle of suncream in your bag for easy reapplication throughout the day.”

Kimberley loves…

Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF 50, £24.99

An oil-free dry touch sunscreen that’s clinically proven to protect against UVA and UVB. The formula contains advanced filters and a Bioshield System that provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA, UVB, visible light and IR-A (infrared radiation -A) as well as powerful antioxidant activity.

Hello Sunday The Mineral One – Lightweight Serum SPF50, £25

This lightweight yet powerful serum is made with 100% mineral sunscreen to give your skin a veil of protection from UVA and UVB rays. Fragrance-free, the serum is enriched with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and kukui oil that offers hydration, nourishment, and antioxidant properties.

Medik8 Advanced Day Ultimate Protect SPF50+, £59

Formulated with DNA repair enzymes and an advanced environmental shield, Medik8 Advanced Day Ultimate Protect SPF 50+ is both a daily use moisturiser and an extremely high protection sunscreen, safe for ocean life. The non-greasy hydrating cream protects against free radical damage, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and uses light-activated repair technology to support skin recovery.

words by Kimberley Medd