Sun’s out! Fun’s out! Buns out! And before you can say “hang on is this sun cream or melted Cornetto?”, they’re burned. Ouch.
Now, you’re not silly – you know that too much sun is bad for your skin in so many ways, from causing wrinkles and premature ageing to full-on giving you cancer. But the world of SPF products can be confusing, and it’s so believe all those myths you hear while you’re slapping on some factor 15 and heading for the lido…
So rather than listen to the lady next door who looks like a leather handbag, how about we shine a light on these sunny skincare lies, once and for all? Warning: may contain evidence that your parents don’t know *everything*.
You can’t get burned on a cloudy day
Wrong! Sunburn is caused by UV radiation, and 80% of UV rays can travel through cloud – so even though the weather might look meh, if you’re out and your skin’s out, you can still get burned or damaged by the sun. It’s sneaky like that.
I have dark skin, I’m safe!
Nope. It’s true that darker skintones are less likely to go the full red lobster, but all ethnicities and skin types can get skin cancer, and they can all age prematurely with too much sun exposure too. So share your SPF around, people – it’s not just for the milky-pales.
If I get a nice base tan, that’ll protect me
Not even a little bit. Sorry sun junkies, but technically there’s no ‘healthy’ level of tan – any tan at all equals sun damage. In fact that’s literally what a tan is; sun damage in your skin. Obviously it’s better to be lightly golden than, like, magenta pink, but the idea that getting tanned on the first day of your hols means you can then skimp on the SPF for the rest of your holiday is, sadly, bollocks.
But I NEED sunshine for the vitamin D!
Nice try but no. It’s true that you need vitamin D to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy, but you should be able to get all you need from just being out and about outside for short bursts during the summer, and from foods like oily fish and eggs. Your skin stops producing vitamin D after 15 minutes in the sun anyway, so you can put a sock in that excuse.
Sun cream will give me ALL the acne
This is a fair worry, as traditionally SPF has a reputation for leaving your face greasier than a Blackpool chip bag. But don’t freak out that you have to choose between clear skin or protected skin – it’s just a case of finding the right sun cream for you. If you’re prone to spots then look out for the SPFs that say ‘non-comedogenic’ on them (that means it’s designed not to clog your pores) and you might prefer a ‘physical’ sunscreen with zinc titanium, which is good at keeping the skin matte.
Oh and also – certain acne products and spot-preventing ingredients can actually make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so watch out and read your bottles thoroughly.
If my foundation has SPF in it, I’m fine
Makeup with sun protection in it is great (look out for that ‘SPF’ number on the tube or bottle), but unfortunately unless you’re caking it on like a 100 layers challenge, it probably won’t give you enough protection for hot, sunny days. So you’ll need a dedicated sun cream underneath your makeup too.
If I put SPF 50 on in the morning, I’m sorted all day
Firstly, well done you for using SPF 50! Give yourself a Magnum for effort. But, and we hate to rain on your parade here… no, you can’t slather on the high stuff at 8am and still be protected at that evening barbecue. Soz. Dermatologists recommend reapplying your sun cream every couple of hours, and immediately after you’ve been swimming.
Anything higher than SPF 20 is a scam
No! This is a popular rumour (mainly spread by parents being asked to fork out for that fancy Clinique primer), and while it’s true that experts are divided on whether super-high SPFs make as much difference as they claim to, in the summer you should definitely still be going for SPF 30, minimum, or even better, SPF 50.
If you apply it properly (and that means slathering it on, btw, like garlic mayonnaise on a Spanish potato) then the number should correspondent to the amount of time you can stay in the sun before you burn, compared to bare skin which burns after 10 minutes. So SPF 30 means 30 x 10 which equals 300 minutes, and 50 means 500 minutes. Roughly.
Sunbeds are safer than sunbathing outside, right?
Nope. According to Cancer Research, “sunbeds are no safer than exposure to the sun itself” – and using one below the age of 35 increases your risk of developing skin cancer by nearly 60%. Which is pretty scary really. But while you can’t exactly avoid the sun your whole life, there is an easy way to avoid damage from sunbeds. And that is: er… not using sunbeds.
Fake tan looks crap though
Let’s take a moment to be thankful for science, working hard at the important things in life – such as giving us fake tan that doesn’t look peri-peri marinade. Because while sure, we’ve all had disasters like these, truth is there are so many seriously great fake tans on the market these days for all different skin types, effects and laziness levels. We especially love this one from St Tropez, which works in the shower in three minutes flat, and this genius Overnight Elixir from L’Oreal, which tans you while you sleep and doesn’t even stain your sheets. Or you could skip it all and just embrace your natural gorgeous ghostliness.
Because you know what actually does look bad?
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Image: Hailey Hamilton