Beauty Clinic: Advice on SPFs for my office worker life, please!


Q. I am really confused about what SPF I need to wear on my face. I work in an office so not outdoors that much during the day (sadly) but weekends I like to be out most of the time.

A. There is ongoing discussion about the most appropriate degree of sun protection in different situations. We had an interesting conversation recently with Dr. Mike Bell, Scientific Skincare Advisor for Boots UK. His opinion is that for indoor workers in the UK, applying a day cream with SPF15 and 5*UVA protection in the morning before you go outside should be enough to protect your face against incidental exposure to the sun.

‘However, there is of course a reduction in the level of protection in the hours following application,’ he says. ‘So it’s important you apply the right amount – a level teaspoon to the face and neck – and top up before you go out in the sun at lunchtime.’  (Yes, we know that sounds lot but we tried it and for your face and neck, front and back, it works. Just leave a few minutes to sink in before you apply foundation etc.)

Dermatologists warn that people often forget to apply product around the eyes (eyelids are often forgotten) and around ears, including the rims, and the back of the neck.

Dr. Bell emphasises the importance of checking any sun prep you choose has 5*UVA protection. Confusingly, the SPF – Sun Protection Factor – only applies to UVB, the rays which cause immediate damage and sunburn. ‘UVA penetrates more deeply into the skin and contributes to skin ageing as well as longer term damage such as skin cancers,’ he explains. UVA protection is expressed as stars (*) on the label, with UVA in a circle to show it is present in the ratio laid down by EU regulations (at least a third of the SPF on the label).

One thing to note: day creams with an SPF to protect against UVB may not offer much UVA protection. Dr Bell points out that (not surprisingly) Boots No7 range does offer several day creams that measure up to his criteria, including No7 HydraLuminous Day Cream SPF15/£14 for 50ml, and No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Day Cream/£25 for 50ml.

If you like to wear foundation over your day cream, do consider a mineral foundation cum finishing powder such as Green People Pressed Powder SPF15/£21. This is currently available in three shades for light to medium skin, Honey Light, Caramel Light, and Caramel Medium. Powder formulations  also make it very easy to top up during the day. (We love Green People organic mineral-based sun preps too, which come in unscented versions for sensitive skins.)

When you are sunbathing (or outside a lot), the really important thing is to apply enough dedicated sunscreen all over exposed skin. So what’s enough? The quick check for bikini-clad bodies is to remember 11 teaspoons: one for your face, one each on your arms, two on each leg, and two each on your back and front.

Boots recently published a study with consultant dermatologist Professor Antony Young showing that volunteers using Soltan SPF15 5*UVA as above did not burn over a week’s seaside holiday in Teneriffe. Their skin was also protected from DNA damage. However, the control group, who used their own products as they would normally, did burn and also had more DNA damage. Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF15/£4 for 200ml.

But is SPF15 always enough? ‘We know that, in reality, most people don't apply enough sunscreen,’ says Dr Bell. ‘So the recommendation is to use SPF30 and above for prolonged periods in the sun and for holidays in warmer climates.’

Photo by Chris Nguyen on Unsplash