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Suncare and sunscreen

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Enjoying the sun is one of the best ways to absorb vitamin D, but it can also increase the risk of skin cancers if not appropriately protected. While wearing any sunscreen is better than not wearing any, finding the right sunscreen can make a huge difference in protection from the sun. Other protection includes physical protection, such as clothes, accessories or staying in the shade.

Why is sunscreen important?

The purpose of sunscreen is to protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) and ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) rays emitted by the sun. UVA rays contribute to reduced skin elasticity, like wrinkles and sagging. At the same time, UVB rays are more carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and often responsible for sunburns. However, UVA rays also enhance UVB rays; therefore, regardless, protection against both is essential.

Some moles may occur on parts of the body which are exposed to the sun. Sunscreen may help prevent them.

What does SPF mean?

SPF is the sun protection factor and measures the amount of UVB protection. The numerical value indicates how much longer skin covered with sun cream takes to redden in response to UV, compared with unprotected skin. Therefore, SPF30 means it takes protected skin 30 times longer in the sun to redden than unprotected skin.

Which sunscreen should I use?

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using at least SPF30. This is independent of the weather conditions and whether you burn easily. When choosing a sunscreen, it is recommended to select one with a UVA seal which means it has approved UVA protection. Secondly, when selecting, you will need to consider the actual temperature and conditions. The hotter and stronger the sun's rays, the higher the SPF required. Finally, the third thing to consider is how easily you burn; if you burn more quickly, you will need a higher SPF, whereas if you don't burn as easily, you may require a lower SPF. Ensure to apply as often as necessary, as it differs from person to person.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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