Your ultimate guide to sunscreen

Everything you need to know about sunscreen

Marie Claire Contributor / May 25 2017

Sunscreen is the most important skin care product you need in summer. Apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Opt for broad spectrum formulas. Pair with sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. You may have mastered the basics of sun protection, but theres more to the slip, slop, slap routine than you think. Heres all your need-to-know stats and expert tips for getting the most out of your sunscreen.

Do apply more than you think
“Research shows that a lot of people don’t apply enough sunscreen so don’t get the amount of protection advised on the label,” warns Craig Sinclair, chair of Cancer Council Australia’s public health committee. Regardless of formula, the same rules apply: stick to SPF 30 or higher, and use at least one teaspoon for each limb, the front and back of the body, and the face, neck and ears.

How does SPF work?
It all comes down to the formula: physical sunscreens such as zinc and titanium dioxide provide a reflective barrier to UV light, while chemical varieties absorb UV rays before they penetrate skin. “It’s important not to overestimate how much extra protection SPF 50+ sunscreens offer compared to SPF 30,” says Sinclair – the former filters out 98 per cent of UVB radiation, while the latter blocks 96.7 per cent. “There is a bit of a myth that using an SPF 50+ means you can stay in the sun longer, but that definitely isn’t the case and you still need to reapply every two hours,” he says.

Sunscreen is only one piece of the puzzle
“No sunscreen offers a shield of armour from the sun, so use other forms of cover too – protective clothing, a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses. Plus, seek shade when UV levels are three or above,” advises Sinclair.

Don’t forget to reapply
You know you should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outdoors – it’s the reapplication that stumps many. As a rule of thumb, reapply the same amount of SPF every two hours, or more regularly if you are being active and sweating, or towel-drying, explains Sinclair.

A beauty editor and vitamin C fanatic who has worked across a range of print and digital publications, including Stellar, marie claire, Gritty Pretty and Badlands Journal.