The Sun is Your Skin’s Worst Enemy – Here’s How to Protect Yourself Properly

Summer’s coming to an end, meaning that the amount of smug holiday pictures and other sun-kissed humblebrags circulating on your Facebook feed is probably on the decline. But the type of social media posts you’ll probably be most satisfied to see the back of, come autumn, are the photos of people’s sunburn after spending too many hours in beer gardens.

If you’re one of those people who’ll upload a mirror selfie of their red-raw back and shoulders – maybe with some lovely white strap marks on show – then I’m sorry to be blunt, but shame on you. Over 80% of skin cancers are caused by UV radiation from the sun or from sun beds – and skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. To boot, skin cancer kills more people in the drizzly, grey UK than it does in sunny Australia. So much for not needing to wear sunscreen unless you’re abroad, right?

It’s not just about cancer, either. Western culture promotes the idea that everyone looks better with a tan, and that it’s a sign of good health. In reality, a natural (or sunbed-conceived) tan just shows that your skin’s been exposed to potentially harmful UVA rays, which can cause cancerous melanoma to develop. Tans are all too often equated with sexiness but, paradoxically, too much unprotected sun exposure can give also give us unsightly wrinkles and discolouration later in life.

In short, it’s just not worth heading out unprotected. Here’s everything you need to know about SPF, including where to buy cruelty free sun protection in the UK.

Helpful if you are planning on chasing some winter sun!

UVA and UVB – what do they mean?

There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun: UVA and UVB.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin’s thickest layer (the dermis), and things like clouds and windows don’t stop them; they can still damage your skin even if you’re indoors or can’t see the sun. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength, but they’re most commonly associated with skin ageing, burning and tanning. UVB intensity varies depending on where you are, and the time of the day (and year).

There are two types of suncream: physical & chemical

Physical sunscreens work by deflecting or blocking the sun’s rays from the skin. There are two key ingredients at play when we’re talking physical sunscreen: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.


  • They start working straight away
  • They’re less irritating to sensitive and oily skins than chemical sunscreens. If you’ve got acne, for example, you’re probably already aware of zinc’s anti-inflammatory properties. However, titanium dioxide can make some people break out, so tread carefully (and read the ingredients).
  • The white cast they leave means that you know which parts of your body and face you’ve covered.


  • They leave awkward white lines
  • They rub off more easily
  • They need to be reapplied more frequently than chemical sunscreens
  • They’re often thick, meaning they can be difficult to apply

Chemical sunscreens work differently – instead of deflecting the sun’s rays, they absorb them.


  • They can offer a higher level of protection than most physical sunscreens (again, read the packaging properly and do your research – their protectiveness depends on the active within the formula and its stability)
  • They’re usually colourless
  • They’re usually odorless
  • They protect your skin for longer, meaning you don’t need to reapply as frequently


  • They can irritate the skin and cause facial breakouts
  • They can cause allergic reactions
  • You need to wait 20 minutes after applying a chemical sunscreen before heading outside
  • They’re often runny and can be messy to apply. They can easily stain your clothes, too.
  • It’ll sting like hell if you’re unlucky enough to get any near your eyes

Many SPFs are now a blend of physical and chemical, offering you the best of both worlds. Oh, science!

SPF isn’t just for holidays

You don’t need to be on a sun lounger in Ibiza to risk damaging your skin. The sun doesn’t even need to be out – UV rays can still reach you on cloudy, rainy or snowy days, which means that you should wear SPF in the UK regardless of the weather, particularly on your face. I wear a facial SPF, factor 50, every day in the UK.

During British Summer Time, the sun’s rays are at their strongest between 11am and 3pm, so you’ll want to avoid being outdoors during these times. Of course, this often isn’t possible – and you definitely should embrace being outdoors on the rare occasions that the UK is blessed with nice weather – so make sure you use SPF accordingly. You can also refer to the UV index forecast in your area to work out how exposed you might be to UV rays – get more info from the Met Office.

The SPF in your make-up isn’t enough

While having SPF30 in your foundation will give you a little bit of sun protection, it’s not enough. You need to use about a teaspoon’s worth of SPF product in order to get adequate protection from it. Do you really use that much foundation or tinted moisturiser on a daily basis? No? You’ll need to wear SPF underneath, then.

Where to buy cruelty free sunscreen in the UK

Jāsön‘s naturally derived products have won slews of green beauty awards, and their sunscreens are reasonably priced.

See Also

A more luxe option, Thank You Farmer creates facial SPFs that just don’t feel like SPFs. If you’re serious about your skincare, or have problem skin, this brand might be for you.

Paula’s Choice‘s Resist anti-ageing range showcases products for everyone, whether you have ‘normal’ (read: combo), dry or oily skin, many of which are packed with SPF. Reliable, clever skincare that sits mid-range, price-wise.

If you’re on a budget, M&S‘ frill-free Sun Smart range will help to protect your face and body from the sun without breaking the bank.

Most easily purchased from SpaceNK in the UK, Coola creates environmentally friendly (and let’s face it, Instagram-friendly) sunscreens that feel remarkably lightweight and luxurious on the skin, offered in a range of formulas, from sprays to creams to face primers, so you’re bound to find a good match for your needs.

Another suncare brand with a punchy, millennial-friendly approach to branding,
Supergoop offers its products in a variety of lightweight formulas that are designed for day-to-day use.

Images @glitterguide @hibou_naturel @hampsteagram Dream in Lace @jasonnaturalcare @thankyoufarmer @paulaschoice Marks & Spencer @coola_suncare @supergoop

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