SPF is a bit like flossing your teeth; you know it’s bad to skip it, but sometimes you just can’t be bothered. Even when you’re using the best sun cream, it can feel like a chore.
We are here to tell you: do not give it a miss. Don’t do a Gwynnie on us. Sun damage is not to be messed with.
We say that because every year over 15,000 new melanoma (the fifth most common cancer in the UK) cases are recorded in the UK.
It can kill you. And yes, we are trying to scare you.
If we can’t convince you, Jo Stoddart, Cancer Specialist at Bupa UK, answered some questions on melanomas for us.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of cancer that starts in the pigment cells in your skin – called melanocytes – and can spread to other parts of your body. Thought mainly to be due to sun exposure, the incidence is increasing and unfortunately in some cases can be life-threatening.
What are the causes of melanoma?
Melanoma is caused by various genetic and environmental factors. There are certain genetic factors, which will increase your risk of developing melanoma, including those who have a larger number of moles or moles that are atypical. Additionally, people with pale skin, red or blonde hair and blue or green eyes are at a greater risk than those with dark features.
Family history is also important when it comes to your risk of melanoma, with it playing a part in around one in ten cases.
Excessive exposure to sunlight or UV radiation from sunbed use is the main environmental factor that can case melanoma. If you have had severe sunburn or intense exposure to the sun in the past, particularly in childhood, then you are also at a higher risk.
What are the signs of melanoma?
Melanoma may start in an existing mole on your skin or it may start on normal skin, creating a new, abnormal mole. There are key signs to look out for, when checking your moles on a monthly basis.
We suggest employing the ABCDE checklist when you check your moles, which should flag up the key signs that your mole could be a melanoma:
A – asymmetry – one half of the mole looks different to the other
B – border irregularity – the edges are uneven or jagged
C – colour variability – the mole is a mixture of different colours
D – diameter – the mole is bigger than 6mm across
E – evolution – the mole has changed in size, shape or colour
‘But sunscreen is so sticky and unpleasant,’ We hear you say. And you’d be right. Historically sunscreen had a bad reputation for being gloopy and leaving behind white smears, especially on dark skin tones. (However there are some that are the best sun creams for dark skin tones.)
However, the formulations now are so different to days gone by. They absorb quickly, they have added skincare benefits and most importantly they are easy to apply.
What Are The Best Sun Creams To Buy?
- Best Overall Sun Cream: Vichy Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water Hydrating SPF50
- Best Value Sun Cream: Sunbum Sunscreen Lotion SPF30
- Best Sunscreen For Kids: Nivea SUN Kids Protect & Care Caring Roll-On SPF 50+
- Best Sun Cream For Dark Skin: Lancaster Sun Protective Water SPF50
- Best Facial Sunscreen: Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF30
- Best Sun Cream For Sensitive Skin: La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+
- Best Reef-Friendly Sun Cream: Caudalie Beautifying Sun Care Oil SPF30
- Best City Sun Cream: The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF 50+
- Best Mineral Sun Cream: REN Clean Screen Mineral Mattifying Face Screen SPF30
- Best Sun Cream For Tanning: Ultrasun Body Tan Activator SPF30
- Best Sun Cream For UVA, UVB and Blue Light Protection: Avène Intense Protect SPF50+
- Best Sun Cream For On-The-Go: Shiseido Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+
- Best Sun Cream For Sun Allergies: Eucerin Sun Protection Sun Allergy Protect SPF50
- Best Summer Holiday Sun Cream: Coola Pina Colada SPF30 Sunscreen Spray
- Best Sun Cream For Soft Skin: COSRX Aloe Soothing SPF50 PA+++ Sun Cream
Before we go into the individual merits of each sunscreen, let’s first talk new technology and nail down exactly how to prevent a slow burn.
The Latest SPF Waters
New technology means that the latest sunscreens are now genuinely invisible on application. Oh-so sheer that they glide over the skin as light as coconut water.
This is especially true of the latest SPF50 oil-in-water hybrids, which are as far from a traditional suncream as you can get.
The waters use the same bi-phase technology found in eye make-up removers.
‘You need to have oil in sunscreen as that’s where the high, broad-spectrum filters are embedded,’ says dermatologist Dr Hiva Fassihi. The water phase is where the hydrating and antioxidant ingredients sit.
Dispensed as a fine mist, those like La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+ and Vichy Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water Hydrating SPF50, are so lightweight, you could almost forget you were wearing sun cream altogether.
The bottom line? You’re more likely to want to use them every day.
Use A Separate Suncreen For The Face
The sun protection ingredients for facial use aren’t necessarily different from those you apply elsewhere. You’ll just find the textures thinner, less pore clogging and designed to play nicely under make-up.
The best facial sunscreens are also flooded with skincare ingredients such as antioxidants to ward off sun-related issues such as wrinkles, pigmentation and dehydration.
How To Choose The Best Sunscreen For Your Skin
There are several other factors that go into what makes a good sunscreen.
Scan The Label For Broad Spectrum: You’ll want your suncream to protect against both UVA (ageing rays) and UVB (burning rays). Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ alongside the SPF rating. You’ll also want it to be at least SPF 30 as this is clinically proven to be a sufficient amount of protection to reduce the adverse effects of sunlight.
‘There is a misconception in the UK that we don’t need to wear sunscreen as the sun isn’t as strong,’ says Fassihi.
‘The UV index measures the strength of sun-burning UV rays outside, ranging from one to a very high 11. When it reaches three you need to apply sunscreen. In the UK, the UV index can hit six or seven in summer so a broadspectrum sun cream is essential.’
Understand The PA Rating: To clarify, SPF tells you how high your protection from UVB is. Sometimes in addition to ‘broad spectrum’ a product may give the PA rating. This indicates how much your sunscreen will shield against UVA rays, which travel deeper into the skin where they can trigger pigmentation, wrinkles and loss of firmness. The higher the number of + after the PA the better (the highest rating is PA++++).
How To Use Sunscreen
Rub It In Well: Apply a tablespoon’s worth to the entre body and re-apply every two hours.
Sunscreen Can Expire: This makes it less effective. Check the bottle for the open jar symbol, which indicates a product’s shelf life after it’s been opened. For sun cream this is usually 12 months. So even if it hasn’t hit its expiration date, if it’s over a year old, it won’t be as effective. And remember to always store your sun cream in a cool, dry place.
Scroll down for more of our best sun cream choices…