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The lowdown on SPF: broad-spectrum, chemical vs physical + how much do you really need?

We all know that SPF is a staple in every morning skincare routine. It protects the skin against cellular damage and skin cancer, prevents photoageing and helps reduce the formation of pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles.


But if you’ve looked at the sunscreen aisle at the pharmacy, the chances are you’ve been confused by formulations and overwhelmed by choice. This guide will explain the most common sunscreen terminology and formulations and you can choose the right product for your skin needs.


WHAT IS SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. According to cancer.org.au, SPF relates to the amount of time it takes for redness to appear on the skin compared to when no product is used at all. The test is done in a laboratory.

For example, if it takes 10 minutes for unprotected skin to show redness, then an SPF30 sunscreen correctly applied, in theory, will take 30 times longer or 300 minutes to burn.

Depending on the product, SPF ranges from as little as 6, right up to 50+. When it comes to protecting your skin, more really is more which is why we generally recommend choosing 50+ for daily use.


Though some products, such as makeup and moisturisers, contain SPF15, this is best used as secondary protection as it doesn’t offer adequate defence for most skin types.


WHY CHOOSE BROAD-SPECTRUM?

Broad-spectrum offers protection against the two main types of UV rays: UVA and UVB.


UVA = ageing rays (causes cellular damage, may not be visible right away)⁠​​​​​​​​

UVB = burning rays (causes the more visible, immediate signs of sun damage)⁠​​​​​​​​


While the effects of UVA rays are not immediately visible, we know the lasting effect is just as damaging as UVB rays, causing cellular damage and premature ageing.


This is why choosing a sunscreen with a broad-spectrum formulation is key to protecting your skin now and into the future.


CHEMICAL VS PHYSICAL

All sunscreens include ingredients that help prevent the sun’s UV radiation from reaching your skin and causing damage, however, the way in which they do so varies.


Physical or mineral sunscreens contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They act as a shield and provide a physical barrier against UV rays.


Chemical sunscreen contains ingredients like avobenzone and octisalate. They act as a sponge, absorbing the rays and converting them to heat to prevent damage.​​​​​​​​




So which is better? While they work in different ways, the level of protection provided is equal - so it just comes down to personal preference!


Those with sensitive skin may prefer physical sunscreens as they include more natural ingredients that are less likely to irritate the skin. The addition of zinc can even help minimise inflammation for those prone to acne or redness.


If you have normal skin, chemical sunscreens are often preferred as they usually have a thinner consistency and are absorbed into the skin without leaving a white cast.


HOW MUCH DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED?

For adequate protection, sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before exposure to UV in order to create the intended protective barrier. It should be applied liberally and evenly to clean, dry skin.


For an adult, the recommended application is 5mL (approximately one teaspoon) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35mL (approximately seven teaspoons) for a full-body application.


For your face, the ‘two finger rule’ is an easy way to make sure you are using enough. Simply squeeze your sunscreen onto the length of your index and middle fingers, then dab onto your face, neck and ears before rubbing in.


Sunscreen should always be reapplied at least every two hours, irrespective of the water resistance of the sunscreen. Swimming, sport, sweating and towel drying can reduce the effectiveness of the product, so sunscreen should always be reapplied after these activities.


OUR FAVOURITES

We have a range of products available in the clinic, depending on your skin needs and application preferences.




Aspect Physical

Aspect Sun Physical Sun Protection SPF 50+ is a very high protection mineral sunscreen cream that has been specially developed to provide broad spectrum UVA and UVB SPF 50+ from the sun.


Formulated with 22.7% Zinc Oxide to protect and help minimise the harsh ageing effects of UV exposure, while the addition of Glycerin works to boost moisture levels in the skin. Invisible on the skin with a barely there feel.



Aspect Hydrating Face

Aspect Sun Hydrating Face SPF 50+ provides a blend of antioxidants and broad spectrum UV protective actives to deliver very high sun protection, as well the ultimate nourishment for skins in need of more support against ageing and damaging effects of UV exposure. The combination of UV protection and smoothing effects of silica in Hydrating Face SPF 50+ provides the skin with an immediate even glow, while glycerin helps to plump and boost hydration. Perfect to use prior to the application of makeup to increase longevity and stay protected.



Aspect CC Cream


Aspect Sun CC Cream SPF 50+ combines the benefits of broad spectrum UVA and UVB SPF 50+ protection, with the convenience of a universal colour-correcting tint to help even skin tone. Achieve instant luminosity with this lightweight, multifunctional CC cream, formulated with potent antioxidants for supreme hydration and protection from external environmental aggressors. The perfect flawless result with a satin-smooth finish.




Aspect On the Go


Aspect Sun Envirostat® On the Go SPF 50+ is a lightweight chemical sunscreen cream that provides broad-spectrum dry-touch protection. The addition of vitamin E offers high potency antioxidant protection to help combat free radical damage. Suitable for use on both the face and body, Envirostat® On the Go SPF 50+ offers 4 hours water-resistant protection in convenient packaging designed to be used on the go. Perfect for your handbag, gym bag and for travel.


Shop our range of sunscreens online here or in the clinic. Alternatively, get in touch with our team to discuss which is best for you!



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