Sun Protection

Most people like to develop a sun tan. They think that it improves their appearance, making them look fitter and healthier. But as we are all now well aware, spending too much time in the sun without adequate skin protection from a good sun cream, can result in skin cancer developing. The fact of the matter is that in the last 20 years, the number of cases of skin cancer being diagnosed has doubled.

Sun cream – selecting the right factor

So, if you want to look after your skin, and indeed your health, and still enjoy the sunshine, you must sunbathe responsibly. In order to sunbathe responsibly however, you must select and use the right factor of sun cream.


As with many things to do with health, the answer is not straight-forward, and the reason is that we are all different. We all have different skin types, and this governs how much UVA and UVB we can safely be exposed to when we tan.

UVB is the radiation that affects the surface of your skin. It can cause sunburn and can damage cells which may lead to skin cancer.

UVA is the radiation that is absorbed deeper into the skin. UVA doesn’t burn, but it causes cell damage that leads to potential ageing and skin cancer.

People with fair skin, red hair and freckles, must take more care than people with dark skin.

The UVA star rating system

The UVA star rating system indicates the protection that a sun cream contains. The protection is measured against a cream’s UVB rating, which is normally specified in terms of SPF (Sun Protection Factor). It’s a system that was introduced by Boots the Chemist in 1992 and which has subsequently been adopted by many other sun scream manufacturers since. In essence:

  • 5 stars indicates 90% UVA protection measured against SPF
  • 4 stars equals 80%
  • 3 stars equals 60%
  • 2 stars equals 40%
  • 1 star equals 20%

SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

When we buy sun cream we choose the one that suits us best by its SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating. Generally speaking, the majority of people can get by with SPF15. Buying higher factor creams makes little difference.

People with eczema and young family members however, should use SPF25 as a minimum.

But even with SPF15 applied, it is also a good idea to us a “stick applier” with a higher SPF, on areas which are more exposed to direct sunshine; areas like the back of the neck, the ears, the lips, the nose, and the shoulders.

In addition to the SPF factor, you should choose a cream with at least 4 UVA stars.

Applying sun cream

Sun cream should be applied liberally. The majority of people use only approximately one third of what they should in order to attain the level of SPF shown on the product label. An average person should apply 30g to 40g, which is roughly two tablespoons full. An average young person needs approximately 20g to cover his/her entire body. Also, in order to give the sun cream time to be properly absorbed and become fully effective, it should be applied 30 minutes before exposure to the sun.

Advice from Broadgate GP Clinic London Wall

If you are concerned about any dubious skin lesions that appear, you can get advice from one of our doctors here at Broadgate GP Clinic London Wall. You can also buy sun creams over the counter at our in-house pharmacy.