How much sunscreen should you use, what factor is best and does it expire?

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WITH summer upon us, it’s time to get the sunscreen out to protect your skin from harmful rays.

But are you using the correct amount of sun protection and a type that’s suitable for your skin? Here’s what you need to know…

Sunscreen is essential when your exposed to the sun, say experts
Getty – Contributor

How much sunscreen should you use?

According to the NHS website, everyone should apply sunscreen “liberally and frequently” on all “exposed skin” before going outside.

Medical experts even recommend initially slathering on the sunscreen “30 minutes before going out” and then again “just before” you leave the house.

This allows time for the SPF to absorb into the skin and ensure you’re properly protected.

Once you’ve outside, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours and more frequently if you’ve come into contact with water.

The NHS recommends applying “two teaspoons” worth of sunscreen if you’re only “covering your head, arms and neck” and opting for a further “two tablespoons” if your “entire body” needs covering.

Dr Marko Lens, a skin cancer specialist, believes we should be wearing an SPF daily.

“You should wear SPF even on a cloudy day,” he told The Sun Online.

“There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is always a result of UV damage. That is the way our skin reacts to the UV damage.”

Some recommend wearing at least SPF 15… although others say SPF 30 is a happy sun protection medium
Getty – Contributor

What factor is best?

If your skin always burns, even after you’ve lathered on the sun cream, there are various reasons why – but one common factor is the SPF you’re wearing being too low.

Each number (10, 15, 20, 30, 50) represents how many multiples of time you’re safe to be out in the sun before you start burning.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation: “If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours.”

So, wearing a factor 15 sun cream will give you 15 times the number of minutes before you burn, than what you’d have with no sunscreen protection at all.

Cancer Research UK recommends you always use a cream with an SPF of 15 or more.

A sunscreen with SPF 30 is generally considered a good standard of protection, along with appropriate clothing and shade depending on the weather conditions.

Does it expire?

Although most of us are guilty of sticking with the half-empty bottle we bought for our last holiday, that may well have expired.

Most brands come with an expiry date but, if it was on an outer box, there’s a good chance you’ve thrown it out a long time ago.


As a rule of thumb, sunscreens actually last around 12 months.

The chemicals that protect your skin will start to degrade and that means you could be left with nasty sunburn.

It could also react badly with your skin and cause irritation and itching.

Be sure and check the sunscreen isn’t out of date
Corbis – Getty

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