Your most Googled questions about sun cream, answered

Whether you’re about to to jet off on holiday, or soaking up some sun here in the UK, you’ve probably rummaged around in the bathroom cupboard and wondered to yourself: ‘Does sun cream go off?’

Perhaps you’re not sure about UVA ratings, or trying to find the best sun cream for sensitive skin. Maybe you want to know how to protect yourself and still get a tan. Whatever your sun cream query, Medical Director at London Doctors Clinic Dr Daniel Fenton answered it below.

Now all you need to do is apply, relax and and enjoy…

does sun cream go off?

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Does sun cream go off?

Sun cream does go off. The chemicals that are designed to protect you from the UV rays only have a limited shelf life. Beyond this time their effectiveness may be substantially reduced. So, before you pack the bottle of sun cream you bought for your last holiday, do check the expiry date or expect to burn in the holiday sun!

Discard sunscreen if there is only a little left in the bottle or it has separated or been contaminated.

What sun cream can I use if I have eczema?

There are two main types of sun creams:
1. Chemical absorbers, which absorb UV radiation.
2. Mineral-based reflectors (usually titanium dioxide), which reflect UV radiation.

The National Eczema Society suggests that people who suffer with eczema, will often do better with mineral based creams, that are un-fragranced.

The truth is, it is sometimes trial and error. Every persons’ skin is slightly different and may have different sensitivities.

A sensible option is to do a small patch test before you go away or out in the sun. This means applying a small amount of cream to an area of skin, and observing for a reaction, such as redness, itching or irritation.

What does the UVA rating actually mean?

UVA rating is very important, and should not be overlooked.

The sun produces UV A, B and C rays. UVC is blocked by the clouds and atmosphere, so generally doesn’t play much of a role in tanning or burning.

The way I remember the relevance is that the ‘A’ in UVA reminds me of skin ageing – UVA contributes to skin ageing and skin cancers. So, when you observe a fellow holiday maker with leathery, orange skin, with sun spots, this is the direct result of UVA. These holiday makers are at high risk of skin cancers.

You should look for a sun cream with a 4 or 5 star UVA rating as well as a high SPF ( Sun protection factor) rating to prevent this appearance.

does sun cream go off?
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What factor sun cream do I need to use?

You should use a high SPF sun cream. The British Association Of Dermatologists recommends SPF 30 or above.

Try to aim for a cream that has both a high SPF and a high UVA star rating to provide the best sun protection for your skin.

Does sun cream stop you from tanning?

It is a fallacy that sun cream stops you from tanning. The SPF rating simply makes reference to the amount of additional protection you have against the suns UVB rays vs protective shade and clothing alone.

The higher the SPF the more protection you gain from sun burn.

What is the best sunscreen for sensitive skin?

There are a number of products available for sensitive skin. I would recommend those similar to individuals with eczema.

Don’t be afraid to use a sun cream that is labelled for children – some have excellent UVA A & B protection, and are designed for the most sensitive of skin types.

E45, Nivea and Soltan all have some excellent products.

Should I use a different sunscreen for my face?

Your face is one of the most sun exposed areas and therefore very prone to several types of skin cancer.

I would always suggest an SPF 30 or above, with regular applications. Typically apply 15-30mins before going out into the sun with re-application every 2hrs or so, after swimming or if you are heavily perspiring.