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Essential guide to SPFs and UV protection

11/02/2014 by Alexandra

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This guide provides information on SPFs and UV protection. We dispel the most commonly held misconceptions regarding the differences and effectiveness of Sun Protection Factors (SPF) and explain why organic sunscreens are so much gentler on your skin than many traditional high street sun lotions.

Understanding SPF and UV protection in organic sun creams

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures the protection against the UV rays which cause sunburn. These rays are known as UVB rays.

How are Sun Protection Factors (SPF) for sun creams calculated?

SPF ratings are a measure of the length of time that a person can stay in sunlight without their skin visible burning when using a sun lotion compared to the time they would start to burn without protection. As an example, if a person with a particular skin type were to start to get skin redness after say 8 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, using an SPF15 sun lotion they would be able to spend 120 minutes or 2 hours in the same strength sunlight before starting to get skin redness. Applying an SPF30 product would enable them to spend 240 minutes or up to 4 hours in the same strength of sunlight before starting to get skin redness.

The actual times will vary depending on the skin type and tanning ability of the individual, and on the strength of the sunlight, but the multiplication factor remains the same.

Natural UV filters

We use two different filters in our sun lotions. The first is Titanium dioxide, a naturally occurring white mineral that acts as a reflective barrier mainly to UVA radiation. Widely recognised as being non-toxic and inert, this is one of the few natural sunscreen agents approved under European legislation.

" We use two different filters in our sun lotions: Titanium dioxide, a naturally occurring mineral, and Isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate, derived from Cinnamic acid found in Cinnamon Leaf. "

The second ingredient is an extract derived from Cinnamic acid, found in Cinnamon Leaf, which has the proper name of Isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate. This is effective against UVB radiation and is also on the approved European list. By using these two ingredients we are able to offer effective, natural protection against both UVA and UVB radiation.

Organic vs high street sun creams

By law all sunscreens that make an SPF claim have to be tested to confirm that they offer the protection that they claim.

This applies to natural and organic products in just the same way as conventional brands so mean that you can expect the same level of protection from an organic sun lotion as from its high street equivalent.

The main difference between organic and high street sun creams is that organic sun care is usually much gentler on your skin, as it does not contain some of the harsh ingredients used in traditional formulations. Read more about why organic sun lotions.

Sun filters: physical and chemical

Sun filters fall into two categories - physical and chemical.

Physical filters work by reflecting UV light away from the skin - they are like a physical barrier between the skin and the light. Examples include Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide.

Chemical filters work by undergoing a chemical reaction in the presence of UV light. As part of this reaction, the energy of the UV light is converted into a different form, usually heat. As a result of this reaction the structure of the UV filter changes and it gradually loses its protective properties. This is why sun lotions need to be reapplied every 2 to 3 hours to maintain protection.

As a result of their activity, some UV filters can release free radicals. Some filters are more likely to cause free radical generation than others. The grade of Titanium dioxide that we use, and the Isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate derived from cinnamic acid have much lower potential for this reaction than other chemical filters.

To guard against any possible free radical generation and damage, we include a selection of antioxidant ingredients in all of our organic sun creams. These include Green Tea, Chamomile, Edelweiss, Rosemary and Avocado oil - all of which have demonstrated antioxidant activity.

Sun factors - why not 50+?

It is important to be aware that the SPF of a sun lotion only indicates the level of protection against UVB radiation. It does not tell you anything about the protection it offers against dangerous UVA light.

The problem with products offering very high SPF levels is that although they will give excellent protection against UVB radiation, it is unlikely that they will offer the same high levels of protection against UVA radiation.

This means that whilst the skin will not show visible signs of UV damage and will not go red and burn, the UVA radiation can still be getting through and causing long-term damage to the living skin cells in the deeper underlying layers of the skin.

It is more important to apply regularly and liberally than to choose a high SPF sun cream. Read about how to apply sun cream.

Do I get twice the protection by using a Sun Lotion SPF30 compared to a Sun Lotion with SPF15?

NO - An SPF15 sun lotion, when applied properly, protects you against 93% of UVB. An SPF30 protects you against 97% of UVB.

SPF4 filters out 75% - 25% UVB gets through

SPF10 filters out 90% - 10% UVB gets through

SPF15 filters out 93% - 7% UVB gets through

SPF25 filters out 96% - 4% UVB gets through

SPF30 filters out 97% - 3% UVB gets through

SPF50 filters out 98% of UVB rays and SPF100 99%.

In reality there is actually not much difference between SPF15 and SPF50 – at least a lot less difference than the SPF figure appears to represent. The fact is that, as long as they are properly applied, most sun lotions offers quite a high level of protection and it just isn't necessary for most of us to use an ultra-high SPF sun cream.

SPF ratings higher than 30 are primarily used by sun care companies as a marketing tool, and take advantage of the public's misconception of what the protection ratings mean.


Our friendly customer care team is happy to help you with any questions you may have about our organic sun lotions. Please call us on 01403 740350 or leave your comment or question below.



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