…don’t forget your suncream

“Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it” – Baz Luhrmann

Are you set for the sunshine to return? The Models Direct team certainly are..we can’t wait to soak up some rays while being super careful and using the all important suncream!

In this blog, Models Direct takes a look at the ingredients of common suncreams, the science behind them and how they work.   

Let’s go with the forecasters and assume we’ll be blessed with hours of radiant sunshine, if only temporarily. With restrictions still in force, balmy conditions might be the one thing the British will look forward to. Foreign travel is currently non-existent, so for most of us our bodies won’t be used to the sun in the second and third quarters of the year. This is a good reason to treat the sun with more respect than usual when it appears, and to understand your limitations.

First up – what’s the difference between a suncream and sun lotion? Regardless of whether the product is a cream, spray, gel or mousse, there is a clear difference. A suncream protects you and your skin against the sun’s rays. A sun lotion is generally used for products that assist tanning, and which offer little or no protection from the sun. The term “sunblock” is sometimes used for products that reflect (“block”) rather than absorb UV rays.

Products that protect the skin from sunlight work by altering the sun’s penetration – usually by reflecting, absorbing or even scattering sunlight. There are two main types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that suncreams protect against: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and can lead to wrinkles and ageing, whereas UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and can cause skin cancer. Either way, you can still enjoy the sun and develop a tan without too much trouble if you follow protect yourself and be sensible.  

Most suncreams come with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating. Let’s take a common SPF of 15. This means that the cream will delay reddening of the skin by up to 15 times. Therefore, if it usually takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to redden, applying SPF 15 cream should delay the reddening time by 15 times longer – about five hours. This calculation is largely theoretical (sun damage can occur even without reddening), so dermatologists recommend reapplying suncream after about two hours. A SPF of 15-30 is classed as medium protection; 30-50 is high protection, and anything higher is very high protection. Some suncreams are labelled “broad spectrum” – this means it provides both UVA and UVB protection.

Suncreams typically have a long list of ingredients, all with varying degrees of uses, and are generally UV filters. The most common are:

Titanium / zinc dioxide – capable of absorbing and filtering strong UV rays. It also reduces skin irritation.

Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3) – a pale yellow organic compound often found in “broad spectrum” products. The compound is one of the most common UV filters found in suncreams.

Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate) – a liquid insoluble in water, this is an active ingredient present in suncreams due to its propensity to absorb UVB rays. 

Octisalate – absorbs UV light, protecting skin from sunlight exposure.

Avobenzone – often found in “broad spectrum” creams, this absorbs UV light over a range of wavelengths. 

General advice also includes:

  • Avoid full exposure from 11am-3pm
  • Don’t apply suncream to cuts
  • Top-up your suncream every couple of hours
  • Be wary of cloudy days
  • Don’t forget to use suncream when swimming
  • Wide brim hats are your friend!
  • Glass (e.g. windows) blocks UVB rays relatively well, but it allows UVA rays to pass through. Therefore, be alert when driving or on public transport next to windows.

So here’s hoping for a great summer, and let’s be optimistic about the weather. It’s out of our hands, but a hot summer could happen. Let’s end on one of many wise words by Mark Twain: “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” He didn’t mention anything about suncream, though…