So CAN you use last year’ sun cream ?

How much should you re­ally spend — and all your other burn­ing ques­tions an­swered...

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine -

Do you need dif­fer­ent for­mu­la­tions for your face and body? What IS the dif­fer­ence be­tween a min­eral sun­screen and a chem­i­cal one? And could your sun cream be toxic to the en­vi­ron­ment? Claire Coleman an­swers all your ques­tions . . .


SALES of sun care prod­ucts in Western Europe rose 2.1 per cent to more than £2.1 bil­lion in 2016 and we spend over £388 mil­lion a year on them in the UK alone. But Can­cer Re­search UK sta­tis­tics show melanoma skin can­cer is on the rise, with 15,400 peo­ple di­ag­nosed every year.

Given that we’re all far bet­ter at slap­ping on sun cream than we used to be, it’s easy to doubt how well it’s pro­tect­ing us.

But ac­cord­ing to Fiona Os­gun of Can­cer Re­search UK, our ex­pec­ta­tions are to blame be­cause we over­es­ti­mate what sun­cream can do.

‘If you’re sun­bathing to get a tan, there is no safe way to pro­tect your skin,’ she says. ‘Peo­ple think that once they’ve put sun­screen on they’re bul­let­proof, but it’s a false sense of se­cu­rity.’

The Sun Pro­tec­tion Fac­tor (SPF) in your sun cream re­lates to UVB, the rays that burn skin. It mul­ti­plies your nat­u­ral pro­tec­tion against burn­ing. So if your bare skin would nor­mally go red af­ter ten min­utes in the sun, SPF 20 will mul­ti­ply that num­ber by 20 — so if it’s ap­plied prop­erly, it would be about 200 min­utes be­fore your skin turned red.

Sim­i­larly, the five star sys­tem re­lates to UVA, the rays that have a role to play in age­ing and skin can­cer, and show how much pro­tec­tion from them you’re get­ting. The more stars, the bet­ter the pro­tec­tion pro­vided.

But no cream gives to­tal pro­tec­tion, says Fiona. ‘You also need to cover up with cloth­ing — hats, sun­glasses, some­thing over your shoul­ders — and stay in the shade dur­ing the hottest part of the day.’


MIN­ERAL sun pro­tec­tion usu­ally con­tains zinc ox­ide, ti­ta­nium diox­ide or iron ox­ide, which forms a phys­i­cal bar­rier against the sun’s rays by bounc­ing light off the skin.

Chem­i­cal sun fil­ters, which are what most sun creams con­tain, have in­gre­di­ents with names such as ho­mos­alate, oc­tocry­lene and octi­nox­ate. They work by ab­sorb­ing the sun’s UV en­ergy and con­vert­ing it into heat, which is re­leased from the skin. Both types work but der­ma­tol­o­gists of­ten favour min­eral pro­tec­tion.

‘ It is less prone to caus­ing ir­ri­ta­tion or spots,’ says der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr Sam Bunt­ing. ‘Chem­i­cal sun fil­ters can break down in the sun into in­gre­di­ents that may clog the skin.’

She sug­gests us­ing prod­ucts based on zinc ox­ide. ‘ It has dif­fer­ent colour prop­er­ties from ti­ta­nium diox­ide, so you tend not to get the chalky white fin­ish.’


AN ES­TI­MATED 14,000 tons of sun­screen are washed into the oceans each year, which is bad for the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment. This year, Hawaii was the first U.S. state to pass a bill ban­ning sun­screens con­tain­ing two in­gre­di­ents — oxy­ben­zone (also known as ben­zophe­none-3) and octi­nox­ate (also known as octyl methoxycin­na­mate and ethyl­hexyl methoxycin­na­mate) — be­cause they harm coral reefs.

Some stud­ies have sug­gested these chem­i­cals could po­ten­tially al­ter the gen­der of fish and in­ter­fere with nor­mal bi­o­log­i­cal func­tions of ma­rine life.‘ These UV fil­ters tend not to be widely used in Europe be­cause they’re not the best avail­able,’ says Antony Young, Pro­fes­sor of Ex­per­i­men­tal Pho­to­bi­ol­ogy at St John’s In­sti­tute of Der­ma­tol­ogy, King’s Col­lege Lon­don.

How­ever, Piz Buin’s Tan In­ten­si­fy­ing Sun Spray and 1 Day Long Lo­tion both con­tain oxy­ben­zone, as do many Mal­ibu sun creams and some Hawai­ian Tropic prod­ucts. You’ll find octi­nox­ate in the P20 range. Green Peo­ple and The Or­ganic Phar­macy both have sun creams that they claim are ma­rine-friendly.


THE gen­eral con­sen­sus is, no.

‘Lots of stud­ies sug­gest they don’t ac­tu­ally give you all- day pro­tec­tion,’ says der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr An­jali Mahto. In fact, Aus­tralia has even banned ‘once-a- day’ claims for sun­screen.

Dr Bunt­ing adds: ‘ There is con­cern about whether they stay on in enough quan­tity to de­liver the pro­tec­tion needed.’

There is no sub­sti­tute for re-ap­ply­ing cream every 90 min­utes to two hours, and more fre­quently if you’ve been in the wa­ter or ex­er­cis­ing. Ex­pect to use about a shot glass-full to cover your body, and at least half a tea­spoon for face and neck.

Re­search sug­gests the big­gest im­pact on sun cream ef­fi­cacy is how much you ap­ply. This mat­ters even more than which prod­uct you choose and how you ap­ply it — and gen­er­ally, peo­ple don’t ap­ply enough.

Oh, and while Can­cer Re­search UK ad­vises a min­i­mum SPF15 and four star UVA rat­ing, go for 30+ — the higher the SPF, the more likely it is to make up for the fact that you don’t put enough on (no­body does).


IT’S not just clever mar­ket­ing — you prob­a­bly do need at least two dif­fer­ent bot­tles of sun­screen for your sum­mer hol­i­day.

‘With kids who will be in and out of the wa­ter, you want prod­ucts that are more wa­ter-re­sis­tant,’ says Dr Bunt­ing. ‘But they may cause spots if you put them on your face as they’re de­signed to seal skin tem­po­rar­ily, which can make them pore-block­ing.’ Dr Mahto agrees: ‘ The most im­por­tant thing is to have a prod­uct you’re happy to use and re-ap­ply — and with the face, that tends to mean a more so­phis­ti­cated for­mu­la­tion.’

Price is no indi­ca­tor of qual­ity, but more ex­pen­sive prod­ucts feel and smell more lux­u­ri­ous, mak­ing them more pleas­ant to use.

There’s noth­ing to stop you us­ing the same body prod­uct on you and the chil­dren, but you may pre­fer one that feels more in­dul­gent and has a fra­grance — which you might not want to use on chil­dren, as fra­grances can cause al­ler­gic re­ac­tions. For your face, a min­eral-based prod­uct is prob­a­bly a bet­ter bet.


FROM bracelets that change colour af­ter a cer­tain amount of sun ex­po­sure to jew­ellery that con­nects with an app and tracks your lo­ca­tion to mea­sure your UV dosage, ‘tech­ni­cal sun pro­tec­tion’ sounds good but has been shown to be rather un­re­li­able.

Af­ter all, if your braceleted arm is in the shade and your face in the sun, the bracelet can’t tell when you’ve had enough sun­light. And our ex­perts have their reser­va­tions. ‘If they en­cour­age peo­ple to think about sun ex­po­sure, that’s great,’ says Dr Mahto. ‘But you still need to ask “Is my skin go­ing red? Am I out of the sun when it’s hottest?” ’


IN THEORY you prob­a­bly can — if the prod­uct is un­opened. A sealed bot­tle that has been kept in a cool, dark place should be good for two years, but look at the tube or bot­tle and you’ll see a sym­bol of a jar with the lid off that will have 6M or 12M writ­ten on it. That means the maker can only guar­an­tee the sta­bil­ity and ef­fi­cacy of the prod­uct for six or 12 months af­ter open­ing.

If the prod­uct has sep­a­rated or smells funny, it’s prob­a­bly no good. At best it is likely to be in­ef­fec­tive, at worst it may have bro­ken down into com­pounds that will ir­ri­tate your skin or cause al­ler­gic re­ac­tions.

Pic­ture: GETTY

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