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How Do You Know If You're Using The Right Sunscreen?

Newsflash: it is hot outside. It is overwhelmingly, record-breaking hot. And though the long leisurely evenings spent in beer gardens sans jacket makes it feel like we've been spoilt by this unusually spell of beautiful weather, our skin probably isn't loving it so much.

Skincare fanatics will be well aware of the importance of wearing an SPF every day, and as we increasingly obsess over using complex acids and serums on our faces the necessity for protection couldn't be any more pertinent.

It's about time we all took the UV protection thing a bit more seriously, my friends. The Met Office has issued an amber heatwave alert ahead of this week's expected 35 degree peak and new sunburn warnings have been issued by Public Health England following a jump in the number of people being hospitalised in Northern Ireland over the last two month. In this weather we need to adapt the way we look after our skin, so here's how best to do it.

UVA, UVB & SPF: What Do They Mean?

The key to shopping for the right sunscreen is knowing what you're looking for. The first step, of course, is understanding the acronyms. UVA (Ultra Violet A) rays are the ones to blame for the major signs of skin aging. UVAs penetrate the skin pretty deep and, yes, those rays are present even on cloudy days so if you're a fan of including retinol oils and AHA products in your daily skincare routine, it's even more important that you use UV protection as these popular ingredients make your skin more sensitive than you may be used to. If you purchase sunscreen in the UK, it should come with a UVA star rating - zero being the lowest and five being the highest percentage of UVA radiation it absorbs - so be sure to look our for preferably 4 or 5 stars on your next buy.

Next up we have UVBs (Ultra Violet B) rays which are the ones that cause you to burn (remember B for burn, right?) and are closely linked to skin cancer. So if you've got a product that promises UVB protection, you should be safe from burning but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're proceeded from UVA rays too. You do need a combination of both.

And finally, there's our our familiar friend; SPF. It's short for Sun Protective Factor, and basically indicates the level of UVB protection the product offers. For example, factor 15 tends to block about 93 percent, factor 30 around 97 percent and factor 50 blocks roughly 98 percent of UBV rays. If you've got fairer skin you'll want to reach for the 50, dark and olive skins should be sufficiently covered with 30.

SPF Moisteriser or Suncream?

If you've found yourself a face moisteriser with added SPF, that's a great start. However, new research from the University of Liverpool suggests that using that moisteriser alone won't provide you with the same protection as a sun cream will - especially if you're spending lots of time in the sun.

It's in part due to habit - they found that we tend to apply a lighter layer of moisteriser than we do suncream and so are immediately less protected than we could be - but the level of protection available in suncream tends to be better over extended periods of time spent exposed to the sun than your light moisturiser, so it wouldn't hurt pop a layer of that towards the end of your skincare routine.

The easiest thing to forget is the importance of reapplication, though. You may not be intentionally sunning yourself on an idyllic Mediterranean coastline but maintaining your SPF game as religiously as you would on holiday is super important in this heat. Even in the UK. Most experts advise reapplying every two hours, and if you're in the market for a new product to keep in your bag for the rest of the summer, you'll find the best facial SPFs and best high protection suncreams right here on Grazia.

MORE: Summer Holiday Lined Up? Here's The Wardrobe You Need To Take With You

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