While the weather may only choose to reflect the changing of the seasons on occasion, summer is well and truly just around the corner.

The moment the sun comes out, people head outdoors in their hordes to make the most of the sunshine while it lasts.

However, many may not be using the minimum SPF recommended by dermatologists, should they be applying any at all.

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It’s important to ensure that your skin is adequately protected whenever exposed to the sun, even if it may not be a particularly hot day.

SPF stands for “sun protection factor”. The higher the SPF, the greater your skin will be protected from sunburn.

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) explains that sun creams are placed into four categories: low protection (SPF 6 to 14), medium protection (SPF 15 to 29), high protection (SPF 30 to 50) and very high protection (SPF 50 +).

The organisation recommends that individuals opt for a sun cream with an SPF of 30 or higher, as does the American Academy of Dermatology.

In addition to SPF, it’s essential that you take note of the UVA star rating of the sun creams that you purchase. 

SPF protects against UVB (ultraviolet B rays), while the UVA star rating indicates the extent to which the sun’s ultraviolet A rays are absorbed by the sun cream.

The penetration of UVA rays into the skin can lead to the appearance of premature ageing. On the other hand, exposure to UVB rays is associated with risk of developing skin cancer.

BAD advises choosing a sun cream that displays a UVA rating of at least four stars out of a possible five.

While the general recommendation is to buy sun cream with an SPF of at least 30, one dermatologist is of the opinion that people should go even higher just to be safe.

“I tell my patients to look for the highest SPF possible - it serves as an insurance policy to give the greatest level of protection for the longest period of time,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist from New York City told Well+Good.

Even if you’re not prone to sunburn, it's still worth investing in a sun cream with an SPF of 30 or 50 so that you can rest easy knowing that you’ve taken good care of your skin.

It’s not just the SPF and UVA star rating that you need to be aware of when applying sun cream. It’s also vital to reapply sun cream throughout the day, especially if you’ve been in water or sweated it off.

Moreover, you mustn’t rely on sun creams that you’ve had stocked in your bathroom cupboard for years on end. 

The majority of lotions will last for around 12 months. If you’ve had them for longer, there’s a pretty big chance that they won’t provide your skin with any protection at all. Time to restock!

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