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From common application mistakes to what to look out for when buying sun cream, Abi Cleeve, MD of Ultrasun UK, answers all our burning questions on sun protection


What are your top tips for applying sun cream?

Apply sun cream to clean, dry skin at least 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun. Use plenty and let it sink in before going out into direct sunlight – application in direct sunlight increases evaporation before it’s had a chance to bond with the skin, reducing its power to protect. Look out for easy-to-miss bits (around shoulder straps and your clothing). As a rule of thumb, use a teaspoon of sunscreen for each arm and leg and your front, back and face (including neck and ears). For a one-week holiday, I recommend 100ml for a child and 150ml for an adult.
Ultrasun products usually require just one application a day to deliver long-lasting, high-level protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Another application may be required after extensive sweating, swimming, towel drying or in extreme temperatures. However, once-a-day application isn’t a license to over-expose; no one should be out in the sun all day. Be sun savvy, take shade breaks, avoid the sun during 11am-3pm and keep hydrated.

What should you look out for when choosing a sun cream?

An SPF-only product will only provide a filter for UVB rays

(which cause burning), but doesn’t protect from UVA rays.

UVA penetrates far more deeply, causing ageing and long-term cell damage. While its potency may be higher in warmer months, UVA is a year-round issue and causes damage to the deepest skin layers, even reaching the subcutaneous level. It also penetrates through glass.

Are there any common sun protection mistakes you see people make?

Firstly, going red in the pursuit of a tan. This contributes to skin damage and skin cancer. The fact is that as soon as the skin reddens, it’s in trauma. Upping time in the sun and lowering the SPF will only ensure skin burns and sheds, leaving the skin tan-less within days. By protecting your skin properly from the sun, the tan you have achieved will last.
Secondly, not checking a sun protection product’s shelf life, as they vary! Keep an eye on its shelf life, as the average is just 6-12 months. All Ultrasun products have a shelf life of two years after opening, so can be used for more than one season.

Remember, if you have a darker skin tone, you still need to protect your skin.


It may seem deceptive, but all skin types become less able to protect themselves the more time you spend out of the sun. While you’ll need a lower protection factor than someone with fairer skin, still aim for at least an SPF of 20 and, importantly, check for a good level of UVA protection.

Finally, sun cream is not just for holidays. The most common sites for malignant melanoma to occur on men are the chest or back, and for women on the legs, between the knee and feet. One of the biggest risks is regular low-intensity exposure. Lips are often forgotten, and with no natural shade like the lower lip, the upper lip area in particular shows ageing from sun damage more quickly.

Should you wear SPF when you’re indoors all day? Can you get sun damage through windows?

Yes, because of UVA rays. UVA rays are a year-round skin damager, penetrating cloud and glass and impacting cumulatively beneath the skin’s surface. According to the World Health Organisation, up to 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to ageing are caused by sun exposure.

Why are products with added SPF (eg foundations) not as good as standalone sunscreens?

A number of moisturisers and make-up products contain an SPF within them. However, these tend not to be water-resistant and, by the very nature of their intended use, are applied a lot more thinly and therefore are often not providing the same level of protection as advertised. They also tend to miss the all-important UVA protection.

Is there anything in particular we should think about sun protection-wise when it comes to kids?

When thinking about the level of protection for kids, we should apply a factor 30 as a base level in the UK and 50 to 50+ when going somewhere hot. Children’s skin can often be more sensitive, so ensure any products used are hypoallergenic and free from fragrance and preservatives.

Shop sun cream


A face protector to ward off ageing
Pack this family friendly sun cream for holidays
Try a safer tan with this tan-activating sun cream
Don’t forget SPF30 protection for your lips

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