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Save your face! The 5 biggest SPF mistakes you're making

A bottle of sunscreen on a blue background showing the levels of SPF

If you think an advanced serum with state-of-the-art, ‘scientifically proven’ ingredients will preserve youthful-looking skin, you are wrong. There is only one product you need to prevent or slow down the top environmental cause of the signs of ageing - sunscreen! It is THE holy grail. Are you unwittingly depreciating its benefits by committing the biggest SPF mistakes?

To protect skin from the havoc of harmful UV rays, you have to first remember that damage can be done at any time of the year. Ultraviolet light doesn’t switch off for the winter. It’s not a lido. In fact, these toxic rays aren’t even impacted by temperature. It could be minus one outside with snow on the ground, but the strength of UV could still wreak havoc on your looks.

What most of us forget, myself included in the past, is that damage caused today may not show up on your face until years later. And it is the cumulative effect that determines just how wrinkled we will look, or whether we will develop skin cancer, when our skin is mature. It is much easier to prevent some of that harm than to undo it.

While SPF awareness has increased enormously over the past decade, there are still areas that people are unsure about. If you don’t know how and when to use sunscreen, this feature will help. 

The top 5 biggest SPF mistakes

It is never too late to start using sunscreen. Identify the mistakes you are making with the pointers below and reduce your chances of developing dark spots, deep wrinkles and other skin concerns. 

You’re not wearing SPF every day

Did you know that UV rays penetrate cloud formations more than 90 per cent of the time? And, while the UV Index, which gauges the strength of ultraviolet light on a day-to-day basis, can nose dive during the depths of winter, those pesky rays are still strong enough to damage your skin.

Wearing sunscreen should be a daily occurrence - not a ritual limited to the summer holidays. Ensure you use it correctly and choose a product with an SPF of at least 30 but preferably 50.

Don’t rely on cosmetic products to provide the level of protection you need. While many foundations now include SPF, it is often not enough to save your skin. If you think you may struggle to remember where to apply sunscreen, think of it as a beauty fluid. Keep sun cream with your skincare or makeup products so it is always close to hand. 

It takes literally a few minutes of exposure to UV light to damage your skin. Even if you think your lifestyle protects you, for example working indoors, you could be wrong. Just walking to and from work or running errands outdoors is all it takes. Other commonly overlooked danger periods include the school run, walking the dog and shopping trips. 

The sun and a UV symbol emphasising the SPF mistakes people are making

You are not applying sunscreen under makeup

Because so many cosmetic brands now infuse makeup products with SPF, especially foundation, it is easy to think a separate product is not required. Unfortunately, the level of protection offered by most of these products is not enough to stave off skin damage. That is why leading skincare experts warn you should always apply sunscreen over a day cream but under makeup.

Applying protection separately is the only foolproof way to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. While makeup containing SPF may provide some protection, it is unlikely to deliver the same, overall benefits you will get from SPF 50. It is fine to pair the two, though. Because over-reliance on cosmetics for sun safety is a real issue, not applying sunscreen under makeup is one of the biggest SPF mistakes you can make.

If you are worried about remembering when in your routine to apply an SPF product, think of it as a primer: over moisturiser, under foundation. Simple!

Modern sunscreens are a million miles away from the greasy products of yesteryear. The dreaded white veil is also a thing of the past.

You have failed to invest in the correct level of SPF

Make no mistake, Factor 50 delivers the best protection from UV light. Yes, it is typically more expensive than products delivering less SPF, but the long-term benefits are worth it. The good thing with sun care products is that they often go a long way, so the outlay spread over the period of use will actually be quite small. 

There is no need to spend more than you can afford to get the right level of protection. Check out own-brand products and shop around before making a purchase. Holland & Barrett and Avon are among those offering affordable options. 

It is so easy to put off switching up your sun care. Trust me, if you don’t, you will regret it in the years to come. If I knew 30 years ago what I know now, I’m sure I wouldn’t be spending quite so much on dark spot treatments! 

A can of SPF 50 sunscreen against a blue background with Regime Skin Care's logo

You are using expired sunscreen

Use-by dates on cosmetics are there for a reason! Over time, any product can start to break down or ingredients separate. With SPF, in particular, it is important to check your sunscreen is still ‘in date’ before you use it. Old creams and lotions could offer zero protection and even cause skin irritation.

If you can’t find an expiry date on packaging, throw a product away. It truly isn’t worth the risk to put a potentially degraded cream on your face. It may be beneficial to add a sun care product to your shopping list as a reminder to top up your stock. The last thing you want is to find out of date SPF on the hottest day of the year!

Getting caught short is one of the top reasons people develop sunburn. Resolve to never run out of in-date SPF.

You aren’t ‘topping up’

This is the mistake those who wear cosmetics often make. ‘It’s too much of a faff.’ ‘I don’t want to carry SPF around all day.’ ‘But what about my makeup?’ Just some of the feeble excuses you may be using yourself. But topping up is essential because, like any product topically applied to the skin, it is diluted by sweat and naturally secreted oils. It is also impacted by environmental factors. 

Luckily, there is a really easy way to keep your SPF at an optimum level. Use a spray-on, clear product. So easy to carry with you and it won’t mess up your makeup. Offering an instant cooling effect, these types of products dry quickly. If you currently use a face mist, spray on sunscreen is a great swap. 

A woman shopping for the right sunscreen to avoid SPF mistakes

Make your biggest SPF mistakes a thing of the past

Use sun protection products 365 days of the year to keep your skin safe from ultraviolet rays, today and tomorrow.

Apply sunscreen to all areas of skin exposed to the elements. Pay particular attention to prominent features like the nose. It takes under a minute to safeguard against premature ageing. Don’t be one of those people who spends years regretting not heeding SPF advice.

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