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SPF Sunscreen

Published on July 19, 2016 by

A few years ago at my water skiing club, I was asked by a friend to apply sunscreen to his back.

He handed me his Factor 8 lotion, and turned around.

I actually gasped. I was horrified to see that his skin was scorched, irritated and inflamed. The sun had done its worst.

There was no way I was going to touch him – it looked like it would be so painful.

He, in turn, was horrified to hear that he might as well never have applied any sun cream at all. I hate mixing business and pleasure, but in this case I gave him a stern lecture about the need to use a higher factor cream.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect he’d take my advice – he was worried about getting a tan – but when I saw him again a few weeks later, he told me, rather sheepishly, that he’s started using Factor 30 and could feel the difference.

For one thing, his back was no longer sore! When I took a look, his skin was indeed healing nicely.

I’m telling you this story now because we’re due to have some beautiful weather this week, and also many of us are off on holiday to sunnier climates shortly.

While I know that most of you do your best to protect your skin, the problem is that there are a lot of myths regarding sun creams which can be very misleading even with the best of intentions.

Each August, I get a string of patients walk through the doors at Riverbanks, who can’t understand why their skin is burned, pigmented and damaged, even though they sat in the shade throughout their holiday and applied sun cream first thing in the morning.

So let’s take a look at some of the “facts” out there….

‘You only need to apply once-a-day sun cream once.’

Totally false. If you take a look at the recent Which? report on sunscreens, researchers found that there was an average 74% decrease in SPF protection after just six to eight hours. This means that, over the course of a day, a SPF30 ‘once-a-day’ product could drop down to just SPF8!

No wonder that in Australia – where they’re really clued in about protection from the sun – you’re not even allowed to say that sunscreens are “single use”.

So ignore the label, and re-apply frequently.

‘You’re OK if you’re sitting in the shade.’

Well, yes and no. Certainly it’s much better to sit in the shade, but you still need to apply sunscreen.

There’s a misconception out there that if you’re not sitting in direct sunlight, then you’re safe from the effects of the sun, but that’s wrong. The sun’s rays reflect off surfaces – so you’re still at risk as long as you can see daylight.

Even if you sit in the shade with sunscreen you can still tan, so don’t worry about that…

‘You won’t tan if you use a higher SPF number.’

Totally false. Too many patients use SPF 8 or 12 in the mistaken belief that they won’t tan with higher numbers. Truth is, you’ll actually get a healthier, deeper tan and a deeper glow with the higher factors – and your skin won’t be damaged or as rough and dry.

To put it another way….. It’s the difference between grilled lamb and a slow roast. And I know which one I’d prefer for my skin!

So go out there and enjoy the sun. Just keep your skin protected…..