Since the sun has been shining for more than an hour in Cape Town, I thought it was a good time to start talking about SPF and my love for Daddy Yanky, Pitbull and other spanish rappers as they make me feel all summery and sheez. Anyway, back to SPF. Firstly, I want to share with you a little story that was a huge changing point for me regarding my suncare.
When I was in the beginning of high school I recklessly spent a shocking amount of time in the sun and would go to the beach to tan with my friends. I’m already brown but I basically wanted my skin to match my hair. I used sunblock with an SPF 30 throughout the day but, aside from getting too hot and going under the brolly occasionally, I’d lie there like a seal soaking in the rays. We used tanning oils and lotions (heavens knows why) but figured there was an SPF as well as tan prolongers, so it should be cool.
Fast forward a few years. I went to Sydney, Australia right after Matric and spent 3 months there doing fun things. On one particular day, I went to Bondi Beach with my book, SPF 20 on and a Piz Buin tanning lotion SPF15 to lie in the sun and get my tan on. If you’ve ever been to Sydney you’ll realise you can have a range of weather in a day just like Cape Town. This particular day was a scorcher and I lay on my kikoi with the countless other tourists around me happily reading my book until it started drizzling an hour later. I packed up and headed back to my cousin’s house. When I got home I looked in the mirror to see a beautiful book outline on my stomach* and the worst sun burn I have ever had in my life. An hour, with suncream, and days of pain to follow. That night, I went out with some friends to Luna Park and the rides were excruciating – even just wearing my shirt was painful. What I didn’t realise was that chances are, my suncream I’d applied that morning has already done its job and that I should have reapplied instead of half-heartedly slapping on a tanning lotion. I totally felt like Christian Bale below:
So SPF. OK, here we go. The number you see on the bottle; S(un) P(rotection) F(actor) 15, 25, 30, 50 and thank heavens with a prescription** 100, is the scientific measure of the amount of time that your sun protection has increased by. So if it takes you 10 minutes to burn in direct noon sunlight without any sun protection, wearing SPF15 increases that time to 150 minutes. However it does not mean that SPF15 is enough. Apparently in some countries now you can’t get such low numbers. The SPF is really blocking out all the harmful UVA and UVB rays which means you can still tan but you won’t get burnt. That being said, the higher the factor the more protection you will have over a longer period of time.
Don’t be fooled by your make-up or moisturisers. Just because your moisturiser has SPF15, or your BB Cream says SPF 20; does not mean it’s actually enough. When you apply two SPF15 products, you aren’t going to get SPF30. We’ve all made that mistake. You’re actually only getting factor 15 which will only give you around 2 hours of sun protection if you would normally burn in 10 minutes. I’ve met a fair amount of people who say they rely on only their SPF in their make up because other sunblocks make their skin greasy and prone to break outs. This is because they are using a normal body sunblock on their face. I’d suggest spending that extra bit of money and making sure you get the correct facial sunblock with a high factor. The formula is much lighter and sinks into the skin instead of just sitting on top. There are also a variety of facial sunblocks suitable for different skin types. The best routine after moisturising is applying a sunblock before putting your make-up on. Some of the ones we’ve tried and tested are (Michelle has the best suncream taste, such a peach!) Clinique Oil-Free City Block either SPF25 or SPF40 R255 ; Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen SPF40 R465 and Eucerin Aqua UV Cream R159,75. Other brands that are really great to keep an eye out for are Cetaphil, Bioderma and good old Clicks now does a facial moisturiser too.
If you hate applying a thick sunblock to your body because it takes effort (like me, sho I’m lazy when it comes to lotions) get a spray or mist but double check that it’s rubbed into your skin first. Always apply your SPF at least 20 minutes before you’re going out. I once heard on something like 3Talk or Dr Oz that a family of 4 going on a trip to the beach for a day should use up an entire bottle of SPF20. Seems like a lot, hey? But it really isn’t considering that you sweat and swim and mist your face with Beth’s Green Tea Mist :P, plus it doesn’t contain a very high factor.
Another thing we’re all probably guilty of is keeping our suncreams until we use them up. Check your expiration dates. Hell, if you are planning on using the same sunblock from Summer 2008 this Spring and Summer: don’t even do it. Go straight to Pick ‘n Pay or Clicks and pick up a new bottle. Sunblock doesn’t live forever so keep an eye on the expiration date. We also don’t always keep them in ideal conditions, which can make them go off sooner.
Finally, keep covered. Believe it or not, clothing, hats and all those other things they mention in TV ads actually do provide an SPF (although only a wee bit). Reapply your suncream if you are worried. I like to keep pure aloe gel in my fridge during the summer in case of overheating.
If you’re interested in doing some extra research have a look at:
Stay sunblocked, covered and don’t go cook your skin this summer or in no time you’ll end up looking like this…***:
*The horrendous book tan on my stomach took a year and a half to fade completely, just so you understand how bad it actually was
**I used to get a prescription from my doctor for SPF100 because I get really bad sun pigmentation on my skin, since I’ve gotten older it’s not as bad and I’m not sure if you still need a prescription for it. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist first.
***I feel like a bit of mom here for nagging but I’m actually guilty of doing all of the above at some stage of my teen to current (partially) adulthood. I am not perfect.