According to scientists, most of us don’t use sunscreen correctly.
This is putting you at serious risk of developing skin damage. At its most severe, this could be in the form of DNA damage, the basis of most skin cancers.
As you can imagine, sun protection is a highly regulated and tested area of cosmetics.
At LifeJacket, we spend thousands upon thousands of pounds on testing to ensure all our products meet the necessary levels stipulated by European regulations. We have to keep you protected at all costs. That’s our promise after all.
When these tests take place, the lab guys smear the products onto human skin or onto a microscope slide, depending on the type of test. They then run their analysis and give us the nod (or not). The test results serve to confirm the SPF and UVA ratings of our products.
The Golden Rule
This is the critical point.
The lab test protocol is to use 2 milligrams per centimetre squared. Obviously that means nothing to anybody. It’s basically one teaspoon per body part. For those in doubt, your face is one body part. An arm is one body part. Your chest is one body part. And so on…
According to studies, the amount used in the lab to carry out these tests and to provide these readings is not really consistent with what we tend to use in reality when we’re applying sun cream to our own skin.
In very simple terms, we’re not using the correct dose.
The ‘correct’ dose is what gives a sun protection product its ratings. So, under dose and you’re basically watering down the effectiveness of your sun cream product.
Studies show that most of us only use 0.75 milligrams per centimetre squared. That’s less than half the amount we should be using.
In a study published in the journal, Acta Dermato-Venereologica, scientists tested the impact on the skin of precisely this issue: sunscreen application based on lab dosage and sunscreen application based on ‘human’ dosage, if you can call it that.
Volunteers received ultraviolet radiation doses and skin biopsies were taken immediately after exposure.
The biopsies showed that the group who wore sunscreen at the lab dosage had the most significant protection from skin damage, even after being exposed to high doses of UV over several days, compared with those who wore a more typical, thin layer of sunscreen.
Think of sunscreen like a cardboard box
Bear with me here but I have an analogy that might explain what this all means.
If you were stranded and caught in a downpour but you saw a cardboard box and put it over your head, it would probably stop you getting wet for about 30 minutes before it collapsed and broke, offering no cover from the rain. You’d get soaked pretty quickly once that happened.
Now imagine the same situation but all you can find is a sheet of baking paper. You hold it above your head and it would probably keep you dry for 2-3 minutes at best.
In my ridiculous story, swap the rain for sun and the cardboard box and baking paper for sunscreen.
We’re all using baking paper not cardboard. And it isn’t protecting us for long enough.
Some quick math….
If you pick up a product that is SPF 30 and instead of using a teaspoon for each body part, you use half a teaspoon, you’re basically halving the rating. So SPF 30 becomes SPF 15 (cardboard box vs. paper).
This is crude but you get the point.
It’s important to understand what SPF truly means here…
SPF is a multiple of burn time. If you burn in 5 minutes without protection, an SPF 30 product will protect you for 30 x 5 = 150 minutes. But if you haven’t used enough, you’ve effectively halved the SPF rating (in my example above). In this situation, you’re only getting 15 x 5 = 75 minutes of protection.
You can quickly see the problem.
Now you probably understand why you burnt last summer when you thought you’d put on sunscreen. Either you hadn’t put on enough or you stayed outside for longer than the amount used was protecting you for.
Why does all this matter?
Sun burn is serious. Five sun burns in a lifetime doubles your risk of skin cancer.
The sun is also responsible for 80% of ageing. Protecting your skin at the correct dosage will help reduce the impact sun can have on wrinkles, dark spots, cataracts and other skin damage.
Please fix this now.
Use the correct dosage: one teaspoon per body part.
If in doubt, use a higher SPF rated product just in case you use too little or accidentally cover one area too lightly. And don’t forget shade, clothing and a hat offer physical protection that can take this conundrum away, but I concede they’re not always 100% practical.
This is tedious but you know it makes sense. It’s the sensible move for your long-term health and for your family.
Sources and further reading