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We spend entire rent cheques on skincare and apply it with forensic rigour. We're dejected when we notice a third line around our eye that resembles a crow’s foot. And yet, we’re still not good at SPF. Even though studies show UV exposure to be responsible for 80 per cent of visible signs of ageing. And more worrying still, that global cases of skin cancer are set to reach half a million by 2040 - an increase of 62 per cent since 2018. 

See, there's still so much confusion surrounding SPF. First up, what that acronym actually relates to. “Factor numbers indicate the amount of UVB light that’s filtered,” says Dr David Jack, an aesthetic doctor who's based on Harley Street. “SPF 30 filters around 97 per cent, while SPF 50 filters around 98 per cent.” And then there’s the different types of UV rays. “Despite the fact that UVA rays don't change the colour of your skin, i.e. burn it, they do penetrate deeper and cause more harmful, long term damage." That's why you should always look out for broad spectrum protection.

Dr Anjali Mahto cites the bewildering labelling on sunscreen as problematic. “Lab reports would have us believe that formulas protect us all day, but most people underuse sunscreen, and don't reapply as often as they should, which means they're vulnerable to UV damage. It’d be better to say, use half a teaspoon for the face and neck. Apply 30 minutes before going in the sun, and reapply every two hours thereafter, for example.” 

So who's most at risk? Well, everyone, of course. But according to consultant dermatologist Dr Anton Alexandroff, people with 100 moles or more need to be particularly scrupulous. Not prepared to count? “It’s the approximate equivalent to 11 or more on your arm,” he notes.

In addition to whether you want a chemical or physical formula, there are also environmental concerns to consider when choosing your sunscreen. The rapid decline of coral reefs have, among other factors, been attributed to Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, two ingredients found in over 3,500 brands of sunscreen. With an estimated 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen ending up in oceans per year, it’s unsurprising that Mexico, Aruba, Palau and some parts of Hawaii, have banned any product that contains the ingredient. If a tropical holiday is on the agenda anytime soon (we are nothing if not optimistic), reef-safe formulas are a must. 

Gosh, you only came to decide which SPF to take to the park, now the sun is set to shine. You understand the importance, so can we stop with our wittering already? OK, let's get into the niceties of new gen SPF. 

Sun Bum SPF30 Spray, £17.99

A export from Florida, this dermatologically tested and vegan lotion smells of coconuts, warm skin and sun-drenched holidays. It's waterproof for approximately 80 minutes, is vegan and dermatologist tested. Best of all, the wide nozzle which delivers a fine, lightweight mist, makes applying the stuff a total dream.

We Are Feel Good Inc Gentle Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+, £28

Sensitive skin and SPF don't always get on, which is why you need a specialist formula. This broad spectrum lotion is good for expectant mums, children and babies. Water resistant for up to four hours, it's non-greasy, has a sheer finish, and, Australian owned, it doesn't include the ingredients known to harm coral reefs. That might not be a real concern right now, but glass half full and all.

UltraSun Sports Gel, SPF 30, £20

Thanks to its high quality, no frills formulas, this Swiss pharmacy brand is a favourite among skincare experts and editors alike. This gel in particular is designed especially for those who exercise and play sports. It's super easy to apply and sinks in quicker than it takes to tie your laces. It's broad spectrum, free from fragrance, and can obviously, withstand heavy sweating.


La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Invisible Mist Spray, £22

For those who purport to understand the necessity of SPF but still, for whatever reason, don’t manage it, this couldn't be easier, as evinced by one review that simply and perfectly reads: “It's like putting on air”.

VICHY Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water Tan Enhance SPF30, £19

Infused with beta-carotene (an antioxidant known to help enrich the colour of skin), this silky water has the nourishment of an oil, but with none of the grease or transfer. It's good for face and body, and won't irritate sensitive skin.

Caudalie Milky Sun Spray SPF50, £21, Cult Beauty

This French brand was among one of the first to ban harmful ingredients from its formulas, in a bid to protect our oceans. In addition to those that bleach and deform coral, they’ve also removed endocrine disruptors (chemicals that can interfere with your hormones). A lightweight sweetly-scented milky water.

Coola Pina Colada Sunscreen SPF 30, £22

Perhaps it's the tropical scent, or the fact that with a 360 nozzle, you can apply it supine, without really moving. It's cooling on skin, as light as air and leaves zero trace. Plus, it's packed with plant-based ingredients and antioxidants, which make skin feel replenished and healthy too.

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