Ever wondered what the numbers on your natural sunscreen really stand for? Just how diligent you should be when it comes to wearing sunscreen? This summer, ensure you stay sunburn free with our mini guide to natural sunscreen.
How Sunscreens Work
There are two types of ultraviolet radiation — UVA and UVB. These two forms of ultraviolet radiation are the culprits responsible for damaging the skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer and ageing skin prematurely. Whilst UVB is responsible for visible sunburn, overexposure to UVA is known to penetrate the skin at a deeper cellular level. UVA exposure is associated with wrinkling, leathering, sagging and other light-induced effects of skin ageing.
The term SPF displayed on the label of all sunscreens is otherwise known as the Sun Protection Factor. It refers to a product’s ability to screen the skin from the suns harsh rays. With SPFs ranging from 2 to 50, there has been a common misconception that the higher the SPF the less frequently the sunscreen requires application. However, this is not the case.
Most of us assume that an SPF 30 gives twice the screening protection as an SPF 15, but this is incorrect. An SPF 15 blocks out 93 per cent of UVB rays while a SPF 30 protects against 97 per cent of rays, not much more. The number rating is about time. It reflects how long you can stay in the sun without burning. If you can normally stay in the sun for 15 minutes without burning, an SPF15 with give you 15 times longer, approximately 3.5 hours.
To ensure we are protecting our skin to the best of our abilities, it is imperative to get into the routine combining sensible sun exposure times and different types of protection. Interestingly, research indicates that certain foods, beverages and supplements can increase the skins ability to protect itself against UV damage. Studies have shown that consuming a dietary fish oil supplement reduces UVB sensitivity , whilst including antioxidant rich dark leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard into our diets can inhibit the harsh effects of sun exposure . Moreover, a recent study conducted at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center found green tea can assist in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer through its ability to enhance DNA repair .
Here at CONTENT we are firm believers that everything should be enjoyed in moderation. So whilst it’s perfectly okay to enjoy the sun’s warming rays, keep in mind that a little goes a long way and heed the following tips for a sun-smart summer:
Three’s The Rule
1. Cover up. 2. Stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 11am and 3pm. 3. Use a natural and organic sunscreen.
Apply your natural sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun to give it time to settle into the skin.
It pays to be generous.
It doesn’t work when it’s still in the bottle! People regularly underestimate how much sunscreen they need to use, which affects the protection level. As a guide, it should take around 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to cover the body.
Forget the math.
It’s all about application. As a consumer, SPF ratings are confusing. It is logical to assume that a SPF 30 gives twice the protection of and SPF 15. But in fact, an SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays; an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays; an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays. The important point, no matter the rating, is the frequency of application. Reapply at least once every 2 hours. You may be sweating it off in the heat or washing it off in the sea.
 Dietary fish-oil supplementation in humans reduces UVB-erythemal sensitivity but increases epidermal lipid peroxidation. Rhodes, L.E., O’Farrell, S., Jackson, M.J. Dermatology Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, U.K. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1994 Aug;103(2): 151-4
 Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure. Lee, L., Jiang, S., Levine, N., et al. Arizona Prevention Center, University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ. Proceedings of the Society of Experiemental Biology and Medicine, 2000 Feb;223(2):170-4.
 Green tea prevents non-melanoma skin cancer by enhancing DNA repair. Katiyar, S.K. Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Birmingham, AL. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 2011 Apr 15; 508(2):152-8.
Read more: Our Guide to Sunless Tanning