SPF: How much you should use and why it's so important

SPF: How much you should use and why it's so important

SPF: How much you should use and why it's so important

Summer is right around the corner, and we’re not the only ones dreaming of trips to the beach and BBQs in the back garden. There’s a lot to do to get the skin prepped and ready for the summer sunshine, and the most important thing we need to add to the list is suncream.

We all know that we should be wearing SPF every day, not just during the summer months. But just how much sun cream should we be wearing?

Recently, Goop goddess Gwyneth Paltrow shared her guide to everyday skincare in her beauty series with Vogue. Her unusual approach to sun cream application has caused a bit of a stir amongst dermatologists and skincare experts alike. So, we thought we’d answer some of the most common SPF-related questions and perhaps bust some myths along the way!

What is SPF?

First things first, what does SPF stand for and what is it? The term SPF simply means Sun Protection Factor. It’s essentially a measurement of how well a suncream will protect your skin from potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two kinds of UV rays - UVA and UVB.

There are different types of SPF, and they’re organised into numbered scale, so we know how much protection they offer. However, this scale isn’t exactly linear and it may cause some confusion. SPF 15 blocks approximately 93% of UVB rays, whilst SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays. SPF 50, on the other hand, blocks 98% of UVB rays. So, SPF 30 offers 4% more protection than SPF 15, not 50% more.

Sun Cream application

How does suncream work?

We know sun cream helps protect the skin against potentially harmful UV rays but have you ever wondered how it works? There are two different types of sun creams, and they work in slightly different ways.

Chemical-based sun creams are the more popular of the two, and they act as a kind of filter for the skin. They absorb UV rays and change them before they get a chance to damage the skin.

Physical-based sun creams are less popular and work in a slightly different way. This type of sun cream reflects and scatters UV rays away from the skin.

Suncream only works if you apply it correctly though. This means that you use the right amount and you reapply throughout the day. And yes, you have to wear it every single day. You should pop on your suncream as the last step of your skincare routine, just before you start your make up routine.

You can opt for a specifically formulated facial sun cream or mix your normal suncream with your moisturiser to help it absorb into the skin. We love to mix ours with our Regenerating Collagen Moisturiser. This means that our skin is kept hydrated, plump, glowy and protected from potentially harmful rays. What’s not to love?

You can also combine your suncream of choice with our Light Hydrating Moisturiser if you need a little more hydration in your life. Both of our moisturisers are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, and aloe vera. All of which are known to help limit the damage caused by free radicals like UV rays.

Poko Regenerating Collagen Moisturiser

Should you wear sun cream every day?

We all know that we should be wearing SPF every day. It might sound silly if you’re spending the day in the office or working from home, but UV rays can penetrate windows and clouds! So, you should be applying suncream every morning and topping it up throughout the day, if you’re spending time outdoors.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), we should be topping up our SPF every two hours if we’re spending time in direct sunlight, and you’ll need to reapply after swimming to make sure you’re covered. What SPF do I need? Ideally, you should be opting for a product that offers UVA and UVB protection.

What about my makeup? If you’ve spent time doing your makeup, the last thing you want to do is put thick, gloopy sun cream all over your face. Don’t worry, you don’t have to. We’ve put together a handy guide to reapplying SPF without disturbing your makeup just for you

Does sun cream stop tanning?

We all love the sun-kissed colour that summer brings to our skin but won’t wearing SPF stop us from getting our summer glow? Luckily, no. Suncream acts more like a filter than a block, so some UV rays will still make it to your skin. Therefore, over time you will still get a slight tan.

How much should I wear if I want to get a tan?

Although suncream won’t completely stop you from getting the summer glow, it will prevent tanning to some degree. Some UV rays will reach your skin so you’ll get a slight tan over time.

Long term exposure to UV rays can be damaging to your skin, so what might look like a healthy glow now might mean long-lasting damage to the skin. Excessive exposure to UV rays can mean premature signs of ageing in years to come. It can also increase the risk of developing skin cancers. So, perhaps opting for tan-in-a-bottle might be the safer option.

To keep our skin protected against the sun, we need to be wearing a whopping one ounce of suncream a day, according to the AAD. That might sound like a lot, but that’s the equivalent of a shot glass of SPF for your entire face and body.

Woman with sun cream on her face

If you’re working in an office all day, you only really need to pop SPF on your face and neck, not your whole body. For this, you should be using about 2 mg per cm² of skin.

Why is SPF important?

SPF is extremely important to protect your skin against potentially harmful UV rays. These rays can damage the skin, causing sunburns or premature signs of ageing. Even small amounts of sun exposure add up over time and can contribute to the appearance of age spots, wrinkles and pigmentation. More importantly, it can also increase the risk of developing skin cancers.

Is SPF 15 enough? The AAD recommend wearing at least SPF 30 daily. It’s also important to make sure that you’re wearing the right amount of sun cream and reapplying throughout the day.

Does sun cream expire?

Yes, like all cosmetics, sun cream doesn’t last forever. How long does sun cream last? Most products have a shelf life of up to 2 or 3 years, but it’s important to check it’s still in date before you use it.

If you take a look at the back of your suncream bottle, you will see a small symbol that looks like an open jar. Inside the jar symbol you’ll see “12 m” or “24 m”, this indicates that the product should be used within 12 months or 24 months of it being opened.

If your sun cream lasts for 12 months, and you bought it last summer, you’re better off swapping it out for a new one. This is because the active ingredients in the product will begin to break down after the expiry date. This means that they become less effective and won’t offer appropriate protection.


So, there we have it. You should be applying 2 mg of SPF 30 per cm² of skin, every single day - regardless of the weather. On top of that, if you’re planning on spending time outdoors, you’ll need to keep your sun cream topped up by reapplying every two hours or so. But, if you’re lucky enough to be swimming, you’ll need to reapply after your dip in the pool.

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