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What Do Sun Protection Factors Mean?

The summer season is presenting us with very mixed weather patterns this year, but with the higher temperatures and holidays abroad it’s always important to protect your skin. Understanding sun protection factors is essential – not just for your anti ageing regime, but for protection against skin cancer and skin damage.

Using sunscreen products decreases the chance of sunburn and can prevent skin cancer or malignant melanoma. According to Cancer Research 13,348 people in the UK were diagnosed with malignant melanoma skin cancer in 2011 and as we are spending more of our leisure time in the sun and on exotic holidays it’s more and more important that we understand how sun protection works.

Sun exposure ages the skin. Unprotected skin that is exposed to the sun becomes more mottled in appearance. Freckles can turn into brown sun spots, the skin takes on a dry, leathery appearance, and wrinkles and sagging increase.

The strength of sunscreen protection is measured as SPF (sun protection factor) which typically ranges from 15 to 45. The higher the SPF value, the greater the protection, although this is not a true linear relationship because a SPF of 30 is not twice as effective as an SPF of 15.

As well as the SPF there are other factors too. The effectiveness of a sunscreen has more to do with how much of it is applied, how often it is applied, whether the person is sweating heavily or being exposed to water.

Consumers need to be more aware of the need for UVB as well as UVA protection. “SPF figures refer merely to UVB protection and not to UVA. A product with a high SPF but with no UVA protection will not be as effective as a lower SPF that is labelled broad-spectrum (offering protection against UVA as well as UVB).

A sunscreen with SPF 15+ should provide adequate protection. As long as it is being used correctly and is part of a skin care regimen designed for photoprotective benefits this will be sufficient for most people.

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