Proper use of ‘sunscreens’

Understanding what SPF (sun protection factor) ratings mean

Firstly we ask you to remember that originally ‘sunscreen’ products were designed to protect your skin from burning (caused by the sun’s UVB rays). The level of protection is indicated, by the SPF rating shown on the product. This was designed to help determine the amount of time a person can stay in the sun without burning.

The SPF number shown, on all ‘sunscreen’ products, multiplies the time you can spend in the sun without burning.

Example: A person who starts to burn after 15 minutes, without wearing a sunscreen, will take 60 minutes to burn, when using an SPF 4 sunscreen (4 x 15 = 60 minutes), when applied correctly.

Important notes:
If an SPF 4 product gives you an hour in the sun, re-applying won’t give you another hour. Your time’s up. Your skin will have already received an hour of UVB rays.

SPF protection is not cumulative, for example: two applications of SPF 4 won’t give the equivalent of an SPF 8, nor does adding SPF4 to SPF 8 give an equivalent of SPF 12.

(It is important to reapply regularly because some of the effect of the sunscreens will be lost through sweat or abrasion and in particular when swimming or toweling)

However, SPF ratings are only in relation to protection from UVB rays.

Originally it was thought that UVB rays were the more dangerous. Today we cannot ignore the mounting scientific evidence that reveals UVA rays are also very damaging.

Consider this scenario: A person from the example given above, chooses a sunscreen product by the SPF factor alone, may spend an hour in the sun guarded against UVB rays, but may increase their exposure to UVA rays without adequate protection against UVA.

Therefore we should carefully consider the amount of time spent in the sun and not rely totally, on the original concept of the SPF time multiplier.

Choosing a ‘sunscreen’ product

Our explanation of the original concept of the SPF ratings serves two purposes:-

1) To reconsider the amount of time spent in the sun
2) To focus additionally on UVA protection

It is important however, to select a ‘sunscreen’ product firstly by the SPF rating but then to look also for UVA protection.

Sunscreens will, however, allow some of the sun’s rays to penetrate and reach the skin. This will initiate the release of ‘free radicals’. To add further protection against these damaging ‘free radicals’ should also be considered. Look for products that contain ‘free radical scavengers’ (Antioxidants).


Our suggestion is to choose a product with a SPF 15, five star UVA protection and one that includes ‘free radical scavengers’ (Antioxidants).

Basis for suggestion:-

By SPF value (for UVB protection)

We all wish, or may have, to spend time in the sun. Protection from it’s rays whilst enjoying outdoor activities in the sun is a must. Taking into consideration the inadequacies of the SPF time multiplier, explained earlier, factor ratings below SPF 15, do not offer adequate protection from the sun’s rays. It is therefore inappropriate to recommend a factor below SPF 15.

SPF 15 absorbs or reflects 93.33% of the suns UVB rays

The efficacy of higher SPF’s than SPF 15 is questionable.

A SPF 30, for instance, will absorb or reflect 96.66% of the sun’s UVB rays. This is an increase of 3.33% above that of SPF 15. Many people may expect SPF 30 to give double the protection of SPF 15.

Higher SPF’s are enticing people to stay longer in the sun but this does not take into account the overall effects of sun exposure. It is therefore inappropriate to recommend a factor higher than SPF 15.

By Star Rating (for UVA protection)

Unlike the SPF system, there is no internationally agreed or recognised standard for the measurement of UVA protection. However, here in the UK, we do have an Industry recognised standard ‘The Star Rating System’.

There is mounting scientific evidence that UVA rays are dangerous. There are more recent discoveries that link these rays to melanoma, premature ageing of the skin and other forms of skin cancer.

Maximum protection against these rays is very important – Five Star UVA protection is the only answer today.

Antioxidants (for ‘free radical’ protection)

More recent research reveals the sun’s rays initiate the release of ‘free radicals’ both on and in the subsurface of our skin. ‘Free radicals’ attack cell membranes and cause damage to lipids, protein and DNA. Antioxidants (‘free radical scavengers’) help protect against this damage, these compliment the sunscreens and will assist in providing greater overall protection.


Apply a ‘sunscreen’ product about 30 minutes before going out into the sun. This allows time for the sunscreens to be properly absorbed.

Apply regularly, liberally and evenly. Generally at intervals of about 1 hour. Most people fail in some way to apply sunscreens correctly, this reduces the effect, applying regularly will help to overcome this. Additionally some of the effect of the sunscreen will be lost through sweat and abrasion.

Re-apply after swimming or drying with a towel

Important note: Sunscreens are not the only line of defense. Although they have an important roll, other sensible precautions should also be taken. Wherever possible: seek shade, put on protective clothing, including a hat and avoid the sun between the hours of 11am to 3pm. Always take extra special care with children. Young skin is thinner and more delicate.

WARNING: do not apply sunscreens to babies 6 months old or younger. Keep them in the shade and dress them in suitable clothing