We always hear that SPF is the magic ingredient required in all our skincare products, but is it really all it's cracked up to be? Skincare lover/guru and Reliquia Jewellery fan Hannah English offered us her insight and expertise to put our questions to bed.
Give us the elevator pitch for SPF.
SPF is the cornerstone of every good skincare regimen. The sun's UV radiation wreaks all kinds of havoc on our skin, causing loss of elasticity and more visible pores, inflammation, lines and sunspots, and of course cancer, unfortunately.
The right sunscreen will improve every skin concern you can think of - it helps with acne by reducing inflammation, it helps with dark spots by making sure no excess pigment is triggered by the sun, it prevents breakdown of our skin's structural proteins thus keeping skin bouncier for longer. We love bouncy-looking skin!
UV radiation will also undo all your hard work with all your other products, so sunscreen is the most important step.
Why are you such an advocate and when did you start paying attention to SPF? What was your journey to becoming an SPF expert?
The biggest reason for me is my dad - he's well and safe but he's had several non-melanoma skin cancers removed, each procedure uglier than the last, and it really shone a light on the way messaging for sun safety is convoluted and not particularly helpful.
Alongside my friend Matt in the US, @dirtyboysgetclean, I created a movement on Instagram called #todaysspf where people share the sunscreen they're using daily, to remind others to wear it and to help them find their dream sunscreen.
My professional background is pharmaceutical science - I wrote my honours on melanoma treatments, then went on to work in drug research including a melanoma trial. Believe me, prevention is better than a cure.
I've always been into beauty, and growing up I thought I was doing enough with sunscreen by wearing makeup with SPF, but that's not enough SPF. The Cancer Council recommends using a half to a full teaspoon of sunscreen for face, neck, and ears, and I certainly don't wear that much foundation (maybe in high school...).
So, unfortunately, I have underlying sun damage myself because I didn't know better. And I want to make this message accessible to everyone, especially those who find science intimidating!
Image via #todaysspf
What are your top tips for wearing sunscreen? At what stage in our beauty routine should we use?
Make sure you're using enough, find one that you love for your skin and just wear it every day. You should use sunscreen as the last step of your skincare, before applying makeup. Tell your family and friends!
Do we need different products depending on the seasons? (And how much attention do we need to give SPF in winter?)
I don't think we need different products, but... my skin is oiler in the summer and more dry in the winter, so it's nice to switch to something lighter for the warmer months.
Wearing sunscreen is a great self-care habit to get into for every day, like brushing your teeth, rain, hail, or shine. If there's daylight, then there's UV. Even in winter!
We can supplement Vitamin D but it's much harder to reverse sun damage.
What should we look for in a sunscreen, and are clean or natural options as viable?
Look for an SPF of at least 30, and be sure it's marked as "broad spectrum" too. Australian sunscreens all have an AUST-L number on the packaging or box, which indicates that all necessary regulatory testing and data has been submitted.
In short, it works. So if it has an AUST-L number and it's from a clean and natural brand, great! Do you! If it's something like a homemade zinc powder mixed with coconut oil from a market stall though, absolutely not.
Sunscreen has to form an even film on the skin and it's quite hard to stabilise, even in a lab, so a homemade option won't give adequate protection.
Image via @ms_hannah_e
Can you recommend your top SPF products?
Paula's Choice Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF30. Gives skin a satin, pore-blurring finish, with bonus antioxidants. Ultra Violette's Clean Screen Fragrance Free SPF30 is also great for skin that's oily and sensitive. If you want a higher SPF, the Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF50+ is also gorgeous and satiny.
Ultra Violette Queen Screen SPF50+. A lightweight serum with added glow - this is my winter favourite.
Ultra Violette Supreme Screen SPF50+ is a silky moisturiser texture. Never greasy!
Sunsense Moisturising Face SPF50+ is my favourite inexpensive option, it's quite glowy though so best for normal to dry skin.