10 things you need to know about SPF

Woman Applying Sunscreen on the Beach

I know it…

You know it…

Sunscreen is seriously important! Summer goes hard here in Australia and we need all the protection we can get. So yep, that means slip, slop, slap and cover up every day. Those harsh rays are coming for us and we need to be prepared.

With that in mind here are 10 facts with some helpful info to spark you into action.


1. What is SPF and why is it important?

SPF simply stands for Sun Protection Factor.

The SPF of a sunscreen is a measure of how well it protects the skin from sunburn. UVA and UVB rays are both types of ultraviolet rays that reach the earth's surface from the sun.

To really get your attention, did you know that UVA radiation is so powerful it can penetrate glass and can damage your skin even if you’re indoors or inside a car?

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin's thickest layer. Over exposure can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling and weakening of the immune system. 

UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin, leaving your skin red, sore and can often blister.

Both UVA and UVB play a key role in the development of skin cancer.

Think of it this way… the A stands for 'Ageing' and the B stands for 'Burning'. One is doing immediate damage and the other, long term harm.


2. Sunscreen terminologies

There are a lot of different sunscreens available. Let’s break it down and make it a bit simpler.

Broad spectrum. You should be using sunscreen that is labelled broad spectrum, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB.

Water resistance. ­If you're swimming or sweating, choose a sunscreen that is waterproof.

TGA Registered. For effective sun protection, use products registered as therapeutic sunscreens. These will be listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Go with those four biggies and you can’t go wrong.

SPF + Broad spectrum + Water resistance + TGA Registered

Heather Walker from the Cancer Council says "If it does all of these things, you're onto a winner." [1]


3. Why you should wear sunscreen every day

Sun damage accumulates on an everyday basis and over a long period of time it ages the skin. Sunscreen is the easiest way to protect you from the sun’s dangerous rays. It is recommended to use a sunscreen that is best suited to your facial skin type and that does not block pores. These can also be used for your body.

By wearing sunscreen every day, you will slow down the development of wrinkled, prematurely aged skin. It will also help prevent skin discolorations such as facial brown spots, red veins and blotchiness.


4. Does SPF clog pores or cause breakouts?

It is true that the wrong type of sunscreen can cause a reaction that can irritate your skin or make you break out. Don’t be tempted to skip applying sunscreen altogether – luckily, there are a plenty of sunscreens out there and many where the ingredients don’t clog your pores. Look for an “acne friendly” sunscreen that is broad spectrum, water resistant and approved for sun protection.


5. How long does sunscreen last when applied?

Just keep in mind you still need to reapply every two hours, no matter how high your SPF is! And don’t forget to reapply, especially after swimming or sweating.


6. How much sunscreen should you apply?

Don’t be afraid to be generous in your application of sunscreen, especially if you are planning any outdoor activities.

Surprisingly, most of us are using around half the sunscreen we are meant to be using. About 30-40 ml of sunscreen is needed for the average adult in order to reach the recommended coverage. Imagine the size of a golf ball…when in doubt, add a bit more.


7. Does sunscreen improve your skin?

It’s important to choose the right sunscreen that works specifically for you. The big news is that the results of a small study in Dermatologic Surgery2 suggest that sunscreen can not only protect your skin but may also reverse common signs of photoaging, like fine lines and skin discoloration. If you’re already using sunscreen daily you’re ahead of the game.


8. Does benzoyl peroxide make your skin more sensitive to sun?

When using a product that contains benzoyl peroxide[1] , your skin can be more sensitive to the sun.  Using a sunscreen along with this treatment is key. In the morning, after cleansing, treating and moisturising, make sure you apply a good, non-comodogenic sunscreen that will help prevent sunburn without clogging your pores. Benzac Excess Oil Control Moisturiser can be used as a primer, before applying sunscreen or putting on make-up.


9. Can I wear a high SPF foundation instead of sunblock?

Most SPFs in makeup are nothing higher than an SPF 15, and many are not broad spectrum. For the Australian sun that’s just not good enough.

Professor Pascale Guitera, Dermatologist Associate for the Melanoma Institute of Australia suggests it's better to have make-up on top of your sunscreen as it adds an additional mineral filter on your skin. "You should let the sunscreen dry or absorb properly before applying makeup so you don't accidentally remove it.”


10. What else can I do to protect my skin?

Avoid the sun and all other forms of UV light. And remember that sunscreen has a use-by date.

If you are worried about your skin or some discoloration get a check-up. No matter how much internet research you've done...Google is not a Doctor!

Remember, there is no safe tan — protection is the best prevention.


For more information visit: 

Cancer Council Australia  

TGA sunscreen regulation

SunSmart Australia


[1] https://www.abc.net.au/life/everything-you-need-to-know-about-choosing-sunscreen/10578232

[2] Randhawa M et al. Dermatol Surg 2016;0:1–8  http://www.dawsondermatology.com/docs/Daily%20sunscreen%20Use%202016.pdf