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?

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Sensitivity: a good thing in life, a bad thing in skin.

When your face is the equivalent of that touchy friend who flies off the handle at every innocent comment (“I said your hair was doing a NICE flicky thing! A NICE one!”) it can be hard to know how to keep it happy while still getting it to do all the things you want your skin to do… like looking clear and spot-free, wearing make-up, not wearing make-up, going swimming, standing in the cold without turning into an angry, itchy red misery mask. All the things.

Harsh chemicals can just aggravate the problem further, but if you’re also dealing with spots, oily patches and all the other joys that the puberty fairy brings in her hormonal handbag, you’re not going to want to just your skin to sulk on its own, either.

But luckily you can stay calmer than your angry cheeks, because there are loads of things out there to help. Plants, to be specific. Herbs, flowers and other botanical extracts can work magic on irritable skin; and these days there are loads of brands that bring nature and science together in brilliant ways. These are the ingredients you (and your fussy skin) need you know about.

Calendula

Found in the pretty petals of marigolds, calendula extract has been used for centuries to counteract redness and calm down inflamed, stressed-out skin.

Weleda’s Calendula Face Cream might be intended for babies, but don’t let that put you off – for sensitive skin having a tantrum, it’s basically soothe in a tube.

Weleda Calendula Face Cream, £9.50

Oats

Sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than a big bowl of porridge, is there? And your skin basically feels the same way. Oats contain beta-glucan, which helps boost your skin’s immune system, calms redness and soothes dry, itchy skin.

Lush’s Jackie Oates is a pale base made with oat milk and other natural lovelies. For porcelain skin it’s basically the makeup equivalent of your mum whispering ‘shhhhhh…. it’s fiiiiine, I’ll put the kettle on.’

Jackie Oates Colour Supplement, £9.95

Chamomile

Speaking of tea – chamomile is famously great at calming minds and tummies, and it’s no surprise that it can do the same for your face too. Thanks to a potent anti-irritant called bisabolol, those little flowers are a dream for sensitive skin, where other plant-based oils like lavender and rose can get it all riled up.

Burt’s Bees’ Soap Bark and Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream is a super gentle way to get skin squeaky clean, featuring the all-important chamomile with best pals, softening aloe and cooling menthol. The loveliest bunch of flowers you can buy yourself.

Soap Bark and Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream, £11.49

Honey

Naturally antibacterial (although it’s too sticky to use instead of hand gel, stop right there), Winnie the Pooh’s fave is also a top treat for skin.

You can apply fancy-pants manuka honey straight onto your skin as a mask – or grab a sachet of this lovely stuff from face mask stalwarts Montagne Jeunesse. And a granola pot while you’re at it.

Manuka Honey Face Mask, 95p

Grape seed oil

Odourless and less potent than other oils, grape seed is great for sensitive types but especially great for skin that manages to be both easily irritated AND oily (wtf, skin).

 

Simple’s Hydrating Cleansing Oil features grape seed, to melt away makeup while keeping your dry bits moisturised, your thirsty bits hydrated and your oily bits balanced. That’s oil, folks.

Hydrating Cleansing Oil, £6.99

Confused about acne? Let us join the dots.

Alright, there’s no need to panic. Whether it’s a few lone ranger spots or a whole party of pimples, acne is pretty much bound to make an appearance at some point in everyone’s teenage years.

Rihanna? She’s had it. Miley Cyrus? Yup.

Chris Hemsworth? Uh-huh.

Liam Hemsworth? Him too.

Michelle Obama? Yep, acne.

While knowing that the rest of the world has, or at least had acne, might be slightly reassuring, we thought you might like some practical advice as well.

Why, skin, why?

Acne is a super common skin condition that affects almost all teenagers at some point or other. Generally, it causes spots, lumps and oily skin, but some people find that it also makes their skin hot or painful to touch.

Most people develop acne on their face, but a lot people might find that they notice acne on their chest or back. Keep calm, this is totally natural! Acne can be made up of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts or a lovely pick ‘n’ mix of all four.

WHY ME?

This isn’t because you ate an entire bag of Buttons yesterday, or because you haven’t been washing your face enough or because you are a disgusting human. Spots are generally just your hormones saying ‘Hello!’

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Keep your face clean using a mild cleanser and lukewarm water before bed, so that your skin can breathe overnight.
  • Try not to squeeze. We know. Just do your best.
  • If you’re going to use skincare products, have a good idea to have a chat with a pharmacist for advice on the best product to use for your skin type.
  • If your acne is severe or you notice that it’s sprouting on your chest and back, it might be a good idea to head to the GP.

Acne often comes on during puberty as your hormone levels change. If your parents had acne, it’s more likely that you will too.

BUT the good news is that for most people acne goes away towards the end of their teen years.

Why is this happening?

Those teeny tiny little holes in your skin (look closer… closer… there they are!) are your pores, and they contain glands that make an oil called sebum. Sebum is actually really useful – it’s the thing that lubricates your hair and skin and makes it healthy and shiny, like the beautiful land mermaid you are.

But during puberty your hormones (oestrogen and progesterone, we’re lookin’ at you) can confuse your glands and cause them to produce too much sebum, which can clog your pores. Which can lead to acne.

You’re not alone

Acne is super common among teenagers and young adults – about 80% of people aged 11-30 are affected by acne. EIGHTY. Sometimes, there really is safety in numbers.

That being said, the word ‘acne’ is a bit like the word ‘fine.’ In the same way ‘fine’ can mean, ‘I’m good,’ or ‘I’ve had the worst day of my life but don’t want to talk about it.’ ‘Acne’ can mean, ‘I have one or two spots and everything’s ok,’ or it could mean ‘my entire face appears to be made of pus.’

What can I do?

Annoyingly, the most common cure for acne is time (arggh). But don’t worry – there are plenty of things you can do to ease the symptoms.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

There are loads of different ways to cleanse your face. You can use wipes or balms or foams or face washes; but the most important thing is to find a product that works for you. You might want to look for products that contain salicylic acid, which is an anti-irritant that can reduce redness and work as an anti-inflammatory to calm breakouts, or over-the-counter products featuring benzoyl peroxide, which kills the bacteria on your skin (use sparingly and always follow instructions).

If you can, try and wash your face once or twice a day, but avoid doing it more often as frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse. Fussy, we know.

It might help to avoid using a lot of make-up, as it can clog your pores even more. If that’s a deal breaker, have a look for ‘noncomedogenic’ or ‘nonacnegenic’ make-ups, as they can be a bit kinder to your skin. If you’re wearing make-up, it’s an even better idea to wash your face before bed so that your skin can breathe overnight.

Ex-squeeze me?

Step away from the mirror! You’re not meant to squeeze spots because it can spread bacteria, make them worse and lead to scarring. But look, we know that’s easier said than done. If you’re one of those magical people that can ignore the temptation to squeeze that zit into oblivion, you are our hero. We salute you.

But if you do it, at least do it right – and that means clean fingers, be reeeally gentle and don’t go digging until it’s definitely, definitely ready. Here’s a handy guide.

Run like the wind.

We know we say it a lot, but exercise can help your skin look better. And while it might not always improve your acne situation, it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem – which is far more important than your pores, really.

Anything else?

There are loads of lotions and potions available to help get acne under control. In order to avoid staring at an entire aisle of products in Boots, it’s probably have a good idea to have a chat with a pharmacist for advice on the best product to use for your skin type.

If your acne is severe, affecting your confidence or you notice that it’s also sprouting on your chest and back, it might be a good idea to head to your GP. They can prescribe you stronger treatments that can get your skin back in tip-top shape.

Acne is kinda an inevitable part of life. Like locking yourself out of your house. Or members of your favourite boyband eventually leaving to try and launch solo careers (ily Zayn).

But the good thing is, loads of people are fighting the same battle. Acne won’t trouble you forever. And spots or no spots, your skin does a pretty great job of keeping your organs in – let’s not forget that. So take off your paper bag and remember, beauty is way more than skin deep.

Image: Getty