Sun screen tips

Sun screen tips:

  • use a high factor sun screen
  • apply more than you usually do
  • apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out into the sun

I’m not one to endorse products willy-nilly, personal choice is just that. However, there are certain areas of life that are important and therefore I feel it worthwhile to share any experience and knowledge that may help others. Sun protection is one such area. These days we understand so much more about the effects of the sun on the skin and how damaging it is – at best causing premature ageing and at worst inducing skin cancers.

As someone that spends a LOT of time in the sunshine and in, on or near to water I am especially concerned about protecting myself. Back in 1990 I spent my year-out in Australia and there they were way ahead of the UK (and Europe) in terms of public health messages about avoiding the sun – SLIP, SLOP, SLAP was the (iconic) slogan used by the authorities there (that started in the 1980s).

“SLIP on a shirt; SLOP on some sun screen and SLAP on a hat”

Sage advice. In Europe most people took the opposite approach – bare as much skin as possible and anything over SPF15 was for weirdos (anyone remember Hawaiian Tropic SPF3 tanning lotion?!!). We have now caught up – and when I am shooting on the beach or in the water, I will cover as much skin as possible – a l/s rash vest; a hat; sunglasses and SPF50 sunscreen.

P20 sunscreen

For the last few years I have been using P20 (see links below). This is a Danish brand developed in 1979 by Claus Riemann for a friend with sensitive skin that was going to Africa. I use the spray – it is a clear liquid – and I find that one application at the beginning of the day is enough to see me through the whole day. And this is noteworthy because I am in and out of the water AND (more importantly) I am a sweaty nugget. Most other brands that I have tried get ‘washed out’ by sweat but of course one is not aware until the evening when I discover a sun-burnt forehead! This doesn’t happen with P20 and in fact it has Europe’s highest ranking in water resistance for sun care products (see website). So for those enjoying watersports I definitely recommend P20.

HOWEVER . . . high factor sun screen is not the only key to protecting exposed skin from the sun . . . . studies (see links below) have found that most people only get about 40% of potential SPF since they don’t apply sunscreen correctly, i.e. not a thick enough layer to achieve the full sun protection factor.

Another aspect to effective application of sun screen is the time when it is applied. Many people apply it at the beach or poolside – when they are already in the sun. Most sun screen requires at least 15 minutes to absorbed by the skin. Therefore if the skin is already sweating then the sunscreen won’t be absorbed and so is useless. Always apply sun screen BEFORE, at least 15 minutes before, heading out into the sun. The ideal would be to make two applications at least 20 minutes apart (e.g. before and after breakfast?).

So to conclude:

  • use a high factor sun screen
  • apply more than you usually do
  • apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out into the sun

AND wear long sleeves, a hat and sunnies.



Sun screen study:

News article about the study:

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