Shielding your skin: A guide to SPF and sunscreen

Drum roll, please… the summer months are here! Despite still having to dodge rain showers, the arrival of warmer weather means making the most of time spent outside. Whether that’s picture-perfect picnics, after-work walks, or holidays spent poolside - it’s all about making memories.

Time spent outdoors can be a great mood booster. But did you know there are a multitude of other benefits to spending time in the sun? Sun exposure is a great source of vitamin D; lowering blood pressure, strengthening bones and muscles, and even improving your immune system. Summer sun can provide us with a massive sense of wellbeing.

However, if you’re going to be soaking up those rays, your skin needs regular and consistent protection from sun damage. SPF should be an essential part of your skin care routine throughout the year. But what exactly is SPF?

How sunscreens work

In short, SPF means ‘sun protection factor’. It usually takes the form of lotions or creams that cover our skin’s surface to shield us from sun damage.

Every time we go outside, there are two types of invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays our skin needs protecting from: UVA and UVB. Our body tries to defend itself by producing a pigment called melanin, which helps to absorb UV radiation. However, too much time in the sun can cause damage in the form of premature ageing - shown by fine lines and wrinkles. In fact, 80% of the visible signs of ageing are thought to be caused by sun exposure.

But it’s not just about preserving appearances. It’s also, importantly, about skin health. UV rays have been recognised as one of the main causes of skin cancer. People who have had sunburn are more than twice as likely to get melanoma. UV rays can cause permanent damage by breaking apart molecules in our skin when we suffer sunburn.

It’s vital we protect ourselves by using sunscreen. But with a plethora of brands on the market, how do we decide which one to use? Firstly, the higher the number that follows ‘SPF’ then the more protection you will have. The SPF number tells you how long it might take you to get sunburnt after applying it, in comparison to not wearing any. Don’t forget that this is an estimate: your risk of sunburn depends on many variables (such as weather conditions and how well you applied the product).

The active ingredients in sunscreens protect your skin by either reflecting or absorbing UV rays. There are two main types:

  • Physical or ‘mineral’ sunscreens, which work by reflecting UV light and blocking and scattering the rays like a mirror before they penetrate your skin.
  • Chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV rays like a sponge before they can damage your skin.

There is also a third solution: hybrid sunscreens combine both mineral and chemical elements.

Remember though that your sunscreen is only effective when applied correctly. Completely cover any areas of skin exposed to the sun and reapply frequently - particularly if you’re swimming or doing sports, because moisture can limit the levels of protection. It’s also important to recognise that sunscreen is just one part of staying safe in the sun. You can increase your levels of protection by covering up with loose clothing, wearing a hat, and avoiding being out during the hottest part of the day.

Also, sunscreens have a shelf life so they may become less effective over time. Check the bottle for the ‘period after opening’ symbol to see when you should stop using it. Storing products at high temperatures or in direct sunlight can decrease their shelf life too.

Should we pay tax on our sunscreen?

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most effective ways to protect against skin cancer. However, right now sunscreen is classified as a ‘cosmetic’ product and carries a 20% tax on every purchase.

Due to how important it is for our health; several UK charities have called for VAT to be scrapped on sunscreen to make it more affordable for everyone. When the charity Melanoma Focus ran a survey on sunscreen in 2023, half of those questioned responded that sunscreen is currently too expensive and 10% don’t use it at all because of the cost.

Melanoma Focus is calling on the UK government to remove the VAT for high-factor sunscreens. The charity believes that a VAT cut would help to reduce the numbers of preventable deaths by making sunscreen accessible for everyone.

What do you think about this proposal? Join in the conversation on Hera Beauty’s social media and let us know what you think.

Sunscreen support from Hera Beauty

As a leading personal care manufacturer in the UK, we believe that skin protection is vitally important. Through our private label skincare, we already offer a moisturiser with SPF, which fits perfectly into daily skincare routines. Our SPF 30 Moisturiser is a mineral only formula based around non-nano Zinc Oxide (a mineral sunscreen that physically blocks the sun’s UV rays). The cream is designed to be absorbed quickly with even coverage and provides continuous moisturisation. Not only that, but it’s cruelty-free and vegan-friendly too.

Here at Hera Beauty, we aim to be at the forefront of skincare innovation. We’re getting ready to launch a brand-new Mineral Hybrid SPF 50 Daily Moisturiser that gives flawless results. The organic component of the sunscreen is made up of a blend of three reef-safe sunscreen actives that have been double encapsulated, so they sit on the surface of the skin. This has two main benefits:

  • Much lower active levels are required than in traditional chemical-based sunscreens.
  • The chemical actives aren’t in contact with the skin (because the encapsulation creates a barrier) so the potential for the SPF to cause irritancy is incredibly low.

What makes the product a hybrid SPF is the addition of a mineral component that acts as a physical barrier to UV light. A special Non-Nano grade of Titanium Dioxide gives minimal white cast to the skin. We are also planning to include ingredients to counter blue light radiation (the name given to the light emitted from phone and laptop screens), give intense moisturisation and boost antioxidant levels.

If you want to be the first to hear about this new product, don’t forget to sign up to our Industry Insights newsletter subscriber list.

At Hera Beauty, we are proud to work alongside our clients to develop dreams into reality, using our expertise and experience to produce award-winning white label skincare products. Want to incorporate SPF protection into your range? Get in touch to see how we can support you and your business in achieving success.