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Skin Deep: Here's the lowdown on SPF and how to make sure you're using it properly

It doesn’t matter how fancy your skincare is, if you’re not using SPF, you’re wasting your time.


Welcome to Skin Deep with Louise McSharry, my opportunity to put years of obsessing over beauty products and techniques to good use. I won’t tell you something is good if it’s not. I won’t recommend products I haven’t actually tried. As the magical sitar in Moulin Rouge said, I only speak the truth.

SPF is not the most exciting beauty product in the world. It’s one of those things you know your should be paying attention to, but who has the time when yet another life-changing highlighter has been introduced to the world?

Unfortunately, though, if you’re not bothering with it, you’re making a huge mistake. First, there’s the fact that research indicates that it doesn’t matter how much money you’re throwing at your face via skincare – if you’re not using an SPF you’re not doing anything to stop the signs of ageing.

As we all know, our main aim in life is to have the smooth, poreless skin of toddlers, so that’s a big fail from the outset. Second, there’s the fact that if you’re not using an SPF, you’re not protecting your self from skin cancer. And let me tell you from experience, you do not want cancer.

So, what kind of SPF should you be using, and where should it come in your routine?


Let’s start with the science. SPF protects you from UV rays which can cause the aforementioned ageing and skin cancer. There are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB.

UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin, causing wrinkles and other signs of ageing. UVB rays impact the top layers of the skin and have the most impact when it comes to skin cancer. An SPF which protects from both UVA and UVB rays is called Broad Spectrum SPF.

The numbers which accompany an SPF indicate the level of protection. For example, SPF 15 provides the skin with fifteen times the protection from the sun it would have without it. SPF 30 provides thirty times the protection. Unfortunately, SPF 30 on top of SPF 15 does not mean you have 45 times the protection. You can’t simply layer and add the levels of protection, your skin will only benefit from whatever the highest number is. Experts recommend that we wear SPF 30 or higher every day on our faces.

So, when you’re looking for an SPF or a product which contains SPF, you want it to be both broad spectrum and factor 30 or higher.


These days, SPF comes in lots of different formulations, but a cream or lotion is the simplest way to make sure you’re properly covered. It should be applied after all of your other skincare, and before your makeup, after or in place of your moisturiser.

There are lots of moisturisers on the market which also provide excellent sun protection, for example, Image Skincare’s Prevention + Daily Hydrating Moisturiser brilliantly serves both purposes. Other options are Kiehls Ultra-Light Daily UV DefenseThe Body Shop’s Skin Defence Multi-Protection Essence, and Soap and Glory’s Make Yourself Youthful Sunshield Superfluid, all of which are SPF 50. If you’re feeling spendy, Skinceuticals offer an extensive range of options in terms of SPF, based on your skin’s needs.

Unfortunately, just as you need to reapply suncream every couple of hours when you’re on holiday, you should really be reapplying throughout the day every day. I realise that may seem impractical, but new formulations of SPF are making this seem more realistic.

If you’re someone who reapplies powder throughout the day, you can now get powder with SPF in it. Bare Minerals Mineral Veil Finishing Powder is SPF 25, and will certainly offer you some protection. Brands like Benefit and Clinique also offer powder foundations with SPF 15, but that’s a little too light to really give you the protection you need. Personally, I think the best top-up option is a spray. It’s handy to have on your desk or in your handbag, and dammit, it’s refreshing.


The reason I don’t recommend a spray as your primary SPF product is that it needs to be applied liberally, and most people tend to spritz casually with facial sprays. As a result, you need a decent product which will interact well with your makeup.

My favourite is Supergoop Defense Refresh Setting Mist, which promises not only to offer you SPF 50, but also to protect your makeup. It is bloody refreshing, as well, with rosemary and mint extract. Other options are Le Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Fresh Mist in SPF 50 and  Garnier Moisture Bomb Face Mist Protect and Hydrate in SPF 30.

Does that all sound like a load of faff? It is a bit. But if you care about your skin, it’s worth it. If you ensure you’re using a decent SPF as part of your morning skincare routine and then introducing a product to refresh which during the day, you’ll have the skin of a toddler by the time your fifty. Or at least the kind of skin which will cause people to exclaim ‘You can’t be that age!’, which, even if you don’t believe that all signs of ageing are bad, is still a nice thing to hear. And, of course, you probably won’t have skin cancer. If that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.

New Product


Urban Decay’s Petite Heat palette is a cutie, from the name to the size. This little guy fits in the palm of your hand, but includes six shades (five matte and one demi-matte) from the Naked Heat palette which pack a punch. If you have green or blue eyes, you could live happily without any other shadow in your arsenal (I’m wearing only this palette on my eyes in this article’s featured image). Rumour has it there were a few available in the Urban Decay Boutique on Grafton Street recently, but the palette will officially launch in Ireland at the end of next month.

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