No holidaymaker or seaside day tripper in their right mind would leave home without a tube or two of sunblock. We all know sunburn is not just painful, but very bad for our skin, and that a generous slathering of cream is essential to prevent the risk of developing skin cancer.

But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, how much do you really know about sunscreen? Can you, for example, still use the bottles you bought last year? Do kids need more protection than adults? And what about those newfangled facial mists – are they really strong enough to ward off harmful rays?

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We asked skincare experts to fill us in on seven common SPF queries.

1. Does sunscreen go off?

does suncream go off? A women sitting on a beach holding suncream
(Alamy/PA)

“Yes, and using an SPF that’s past its shelf life means it won’t protect effectively,” says Abi Cleeve, MD at Ultrasun UK and founder of SkinSense.  “Always check the small symbol on the bottle, a pot with the number of months it is effective after opening.”

She adds: “All Ultrasun products have a shelf life of two years after opening, against an average for most sun creams of six to 12 months, due to the specific lamellar formula used.”

2. Should children always wear factor 50?

does suncream go off? A women putting suncream on a boy
(Alamy/PA)

Laura Harker, lead screening nurse at The Mole Clinic, says: “Babies and younger children need extra care, and children aged under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight. This is because their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.”

She recommends parents use at least SPF 30 on their kids, depending on “age and strength of the sun. Ideally, in the summertime, children should cover up with suitable clothing and spend time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm, when the sun is strongest”.

3. Why does sunscreen sometimes give you spots?

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Supergoop! (@supergoop)

 

“This can often be because of the formula,” says Cleeve. “Physical formulas sit on the surface of the skin which can cause irritation, or the presence of fragrance and emulsifiers can cause sensitive skins to react.”

Check the ingredients list if you want to avoid these acne-causing irritants and look for sunscreen that’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t block pores.

“Spots can be due to not removing sunscreen properly,” says Chelsey Edmunds, campaigns and communications manager at Escentual. “Use an oil-based cleanser to remove, as the filters can clog pores.”

4. Do SPF mists really give your face enough protection?

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ultrasun (@ultrasunuk)

 

“A good quality mist sunscreen can be just as effective as a good quality cream sunscreen – provided you apply the mist in sufficient quantities,” says Harker.

To get adequate coverage, Cleeve says it takes “a little more vigilance to ensure no missed bits, so do make sure these are also rubbed in. After that full first application, a mist is also great for ‘on the go’ and top-ups over make-up”.

5. Do foundations that contain sunscreen work just as well as applying a sun block with the same SPF?

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Heliocare UK (@heliocareuk)

“No, as not all foundations are broad-spectrum, which protect against UVA rays,” says Edmunds. “This is due to the number of filters having to be less, as the pigment of the foundation needs to be more. To get the same amount of protection from a broad-spectrum SPF 30, you would need to apply 15 layers of foundation.”

Plus, there’s the issue of reapplication, Harker points out: “All sunscreens need frequent re-application to remain effective, and most people do not want to re-apply foundation frequently, so there is a greater risk of under-protection when using SPF foundation.”

6. Are any sunscreens really waterproof?

Sun Tan Art GIF by Michelle Porucznik - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

“Waterproof sunscreens don’t really exist. Water resistant sunscreens do,” says Edmunds, which means they are tested to ensure up to 40 minutes of underwater resistance.

Even if you aren’t swimming, don’t forget to reapply, says Harker: “These sunscreens will need to be more frequently re-applied as exposure to water – or even sweat – quickly reduces the all-important sun protection factor.”

7. Are expensive sunscreens really better, or are you just paying for the brand name?

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Decree Skincare (@decreeskincare)

 

When choosing a sun block, you should consider the SPF number (UVB), percentage UVA filter and the formula, says Cleeve, regardless of brand or price. “Opt for an SPF of 30 or more and a UVA percentage filter of over 90%. Ultrasun puts the percentage on the product for ease.”

Harker recommends selecting a product that has a UVA rating of four or five stars “rather than [based on] price, because the higher the price does not always mean the higher the protection”.

Beyond those important ratings, Edmunds says the price difference between sun blocks comes down to “the technology and the texture. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for. Better quality sunscreens generally have better ingredients, pleasureability and offer better protection for your skin, but you can get adequate protection from budget products.”

Best-selling suncream

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

Bestseller No. 1
NIVEA SUN Protect & Moisture Sun Spray SPF30 (200 ml), Moisturising Suncream Spray with SPF30,...
  • Moisturising Protection - Our moisturising cream spray offers effective protection against sun exposure with its highly effective UVA/UVB filter.
  • SPF 30 - Our sun cream SPF 30 offers a medium level of sun protection which reduces the risk of sun-induced allergies and UV-induced skin damage.
  • Water Resistant - The moisturising suncream 30 is highly water resistant so will last longer in the sunshine. Make sure to reapply after entering the water.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Garnier Ambre Solaire Clear Protect Transparent Sun Cream Protection Spray SPF30, Non Greasy High...
  • Garnier Ambre Solaire Clear Protect and Refresh - SPF30 high protection
  • 100 Percent transparent formula, this Ultra-Light protection spray dries in 5 seconds, no white marks on skin or clothes
  • Enriched with natural origin Aloe Vera, leaving skin fresh, non-greasy and non-sticky
Bestseller No. 3
Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist Fast Absorbing Sun Cream Spray SPF50, Non Greasy High Sun Protection...
7,154 Reviews
Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist Fast Absorbing Sun Cream Spray SPF50, Non Greasy High Sun Protection...
  • Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist SPF 50 offers high protection
  • This Ultra-Light protection mist absorbs quickly, without leaving white marks on skin or clothes, and gives a bare skin feeling that is non-greasy and non-sticky
  • UVA/UVB filters that conform 100 Percent to European recommendations for protection against the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays
SaleBestseller No. 4
NIVEA SUN Kids Swim & Play Sun Lotion (150 ml) Sunscreen with SPF 50+, Kids Suncream for Delicate...
  • Swim & Play - Our powerful suncream has been specially designed for children, babies and delicate skin. Let children play without worrying about sun damage!
  • SPF 50+ - Our sun cream SPF 50 offers a high level of sun protection which reduces the risk of sun-induced allergies and UV-induced skin damage.
  • Water Resistant - The sensitive kid's suncream is highly water resistant so you do not need to reapply the suncream 50 after your children have been in the sea!
Bestseller No. 5
Nivea SUN Kids Protect & Care Coloured Spray SPF 30+ (200 ml) Sunscreen Spray with SPF 30 Kids...
474 Reviews
Nivea SUN Kids Protect & Care Coloured Spray SPF 30+ (200 ml) Sunscreen Spray with SPF 30 Kids...
  • Delicate Skin - Our kids face suncream has been specially designed for children, babies and delicate skin. The moisturising cream immediately protects
  • SPF 30 - Our sun cream SPF 30 offers a high level of sun protection which reduces the risk of sun-induced allergies and UV-induced skin damage
  • Water Resistant - The sensitive kid's spray is highly water resistant so you do not need to reapply the suncream 30 after your children have been in the sea
Bestseller No. 6
NIVEA SUN Kids Protect & Care Coloured Spray SPF 50+ (200 ml) Sunscreen Spray with SPF 50 Kids...
  • Delicate Skin: NIVEA's kids face suncream has been specially designed for children, babies and delicate skin. The moisturising cream immediately protects
  • SPF 50+: NIVEA sun cream SPF 50 offers a high level of sun protection which reduces the risk of sun-induced allergies and UV-induced skin damage
  • Water Resistant: The sensitive kid's spray is highly water-resistant so you do not need to reapply the suncream 50 after your children have been in the sea
SaleBestseller No. 7
Nivea SUN Protect & Bronze Sun Spray Oil (200 ml), Bronzing Tanning Oil Spray with SPF20, Advanced...
  • Moisturising Protection - Our moisturising cream spray offers effective protection against sun exposure with its highly effective UVA/UVB filter.
  • Bronzing Lotion - The moisturising suncream 20 bronzing spray contains natural pro-melanin extracts to support the skin's natural tanning process.
  • SPF 20 - Our sun cream SPF 20 offers a medium level of sun protection which reduces the risk of sun-induced allergies and UV-induced skin damage.

Last update on 2021-08-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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