As handsomely bronzed as the sun can make your skin, it’s actually its worst enemy, with exposure causing everything from cosmetic issues like wrinkles to more serious problems such as skin cancer.
But, while most of us might dutifully slather on the sun cream whilst on holiday, we’re less vigilant of the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays on a day-to-day basis.
Everyday exposure to the sun might not result in lobster redness and peeling skin, but it still does irreparable damage, sapping your skin of much-needed moisture, accelerating the ageing process and causing the formation of brown spots and wrinkles.
“While people may think that having a tan is healthy, a tan is actually [the product of your body’s] defence mechanism,” says Dr. Martin Wade, dermatologist at London Real Skin.
So although we might commonly refer to the sun’s effects on skin as a ‘healthy glow’, a tan – caused by your body producing more melanin in order to absorb UV radiation – is actually the result of your body trying to protect itself from harm.
Here’s the 411 on sun protection:
Ultraviolet B rays. These cause sunburn and are responsible for most skin cancers. UVB rays are much stronger than UVA and penetrate the dermis through to the basal layer (inner layer) of the dermis.
Ultraviolet A rays. Used in tanning booths, these are long rays that penetrate the dermis and damage the collagen and elastin fibres, causing that wrinkly, leathery texture that we like to euphemistically call ‘character’.
Best way to remember? UVA = Ageing; UVB = Burning.
When buying a moisturiser, make sure it has SPF in it, as SPF products are designed to filter, reflect or absorb harmful UVA and UVB rays. To best guard your skin, look for something that offers broad spectrum protection – i.e. protection against both UVA and UVB rays. (Dr. Wade suggests sticking to products with a UVA rating of at least 4, preferably 5 stars.)
Best For Sensitive Skin
Simple Kind to Skin+ Protecting Moisture Cream SPF 30
Some UVA/UVB-absorbing sunscreens can cause irritation to the skin. This gentler option from Simple, however, is specially formulated for sensitive skin.
It’s free from artificial fragrances and colours and comes loaded with vitamin E, vitamin B3, sweet almond oil and glycerin to keep your skin healthy and hydrated.
Available at Boots, priced £4.99.
Best For Oily Skin
Seaweed Mattifying Moisture Lotion SPF 15
Offering protection from both UVA and UVB rays, this SPF moisturiser harnesses the natural sun-protection properties of seaweed.
It’s also mattifying, which means it’ll soak up the excess oil your skin produces in response to the heat. What’s more, it’s brilliantly lightweight, so you won’t have to spend ages waiting for your skin to absorb it.
Available at The Body Shop, priced £13.
Best For Dry Or Combination/Oily Skin
Clinique Super Defense SPF 20 Facial Moisturiser
Skincare specialists Clinique have all bases covered with this product, offering two separate formulations for dry and combination/oily skin, respectively.
Each is chock full of antioxidants, protects against UVA and UVB rays and is lightweight enough to melt into skin instantly on application.
Available at John Lewis, priced £40.
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defence SPF50
Oil-free, fragrance-free and boasting broad-spectrum coverage, this ultra-light cream from Kiehl’s packs the biggest sun protection. It’s suitable for sensitive skin, too.
Available at Kiehls, priced £35.