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UV, SPF and our guide to sun protection

sun parasol umbrella beach sky

The sun. It's a complicated relationship. We love when the sun is shining, it makes us feel happier, and helps keeps SAD (seasonal affective disorder) at bay. But we all know that the sun can have a detrimental effect on our skin. In this blog we look at what UV rays are, how they can affect our skin, and what we can do to protect our skin.

The ABCs of UV

What is UV and what does UV stand for?

Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is a source of energy that is released naturally by the sun (and artificially from sunbeds but we would never go near them!).

  • UVA (ultraviolet A) penetrates deep into the skin and is associated with skin ageing. Think A for ageing.
  • UVB (ultraviolet B) is responsible for most sunburns. Think B for burn.
  • UVC (ultraviolet C) which is completely blocked by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach the earth's surface - thankfully as this could be the most damaging of all!

How can UV cause skin cancer?

Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in our skin cells. Tanning is an indication of this - it is evidence of DNA injury to the skin. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.

How can UV cause skin ageing?

Primarily UVA causes ageing (think A for ageing, B for burning). UVA penetrates the dermis of the skin (40x deeper than UVB) and causes the break down of healthy collagen & elastin fibers.

a woman on a watermelon lilo in a swimming pool

How the UV index can help us to understand when to protect ourselves

The UV index tells us how strong the sun’s UV rays are.

If it is 3 or above, you need to start protecting your skin through sunscreen, seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and a hat.

How do you find what the UV index is at any given time?

It's easy! Whenever you check the temperature in the weather app on your phone, it will tell you the UV index number.

And remember, the clouds block some UV, but over 90% can still pass through light cloud and cause sunburn.

UV index guide

What does SPF mean and how much sunscreen should I apply?

What does SPF stand for?

Let's take it back to basics. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it measures the amount of time it would take your skin to burn with proper application eg SPF 50 = 50x longer to burn if applied properly.


UVA and UVB rays

When you are looking for a sunscreen, make sure that it offers both UVB and UVA protection, also known as broad spectrum protection.


  • SPF number measures the level of protection from UVB rays.
  • PA rating (Japan), the letters UVA inside a circle (EU), or the star rating (UK) measures the level of protection from UVA rays.

How much sunscreen do I need to apply?

According to the NHS, adults should aim to apply around 6 to 8 teaspoons of sunscreen for the entire face and body.

You'll need about ½-1 teaspoon’s worth to cover your face and neck.

How often do I need to apply sunscreen?

Apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside. It's also recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.

But what about my makeup?

We totally get that this can be difficult if you wear makeup. There are options out there though, like SPF mineral setting powders. But of course this wont offer the same protection as proper reapplication!

Our best-selling SPFs

What is the SPF of my clothing?

We’ve talked about SPF but have you heard of UPF?⁠

UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is a measure of how much UVA and UVB protection a fabric has.⁠

For example, a UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays, and you don’t even need to reapply!⁠

Did you know that the average white t-shirt gives the equivalent of UPF 7? If you are spending a lot of time outside (eg sitting on the beach) it’s worth considering UPF clothing and hats for that extra protection.⁠

towel on a deckchair

Do you want to know more about the effects of the sun on your skin?

We offer high tech skin scans as part of our facials

If you have been in for our Welcome Essential facial or a Skin MOT, you'll have experienced a skin analysis using the Observ. 

This futuristic looking device captures images of the layers of your skin and helps us to better understand exactly what your skin needs. It’s great for understanding and keeping track of the effects of UV on your skin.

Let us know if you ever want to add-on a skin scan to your next treatment!

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