Sunscreen: need to know

Sunscreen: need to know

Science behind products


What's in my cosmetics

Hot topics

Baffled by technical terms and jargon?
Use this section to understand what it all means.
Select a topic alphabetically:
or Search for the topic
HomeSunscreensSunscreen: need to know

You can see below this section for facts about the sun itself and a video showing you how the sun sees you!

The fact that over-exposure to the sun can be harmful has been well-publicised. A multitude of authorities, including Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health and the British Association of Dermatologists, recommend the use of sunscreens as part of "sun safe" behaviour. Visit SunAwareness to find out more.

But how much do we understand about what sunlight actually does to our skin and how sunscreens help combat its effects?

In this series of pages in thefactsabout, you will receive all the information on why we need to use sunscreens and how they keep you safe:

How and why we use sunscreen

Strictly speaking, a sunscreen is anything which helps protect the skin against the harmful rays of the sun. This includes clothing, sunglasses, parasols and products formulated to be applied to the skin.

In this section you will learn about sunscreens and how they protect us, including how best to apply your sunscreen.

Sunscreen protection levels

In this section you will learn what we mean when we say SPF and how best to determine your SPF level. You can also learn about the science of sunscreen protection and how you're protected against UVA and UVB rays.



Different types of sunscreen

Sunscreens come in many different varieties to suit your specific needs. Whatever sunscreen type we choose, we can be confident in using it because sunscreens are developed by scientists with expert suncare knowledge. See this section to learn more about these constantly innovating products.


Confidence in Sunscreens

Safety is the number one priority of the cosmetics industry, we can be absolutely confident that the sunscreen we buy is safe to use and will do what it says it does.

Sunscreens must be safe to use by everyone and the strict cosmetics law is explained in this section.

About the sun

The light from the sun has a strong effect on mood and we know that people feel better when the sun shines. In particular, those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) show an improvement in the summer months. Sunlight also acts on the skin to produce vitamin D, which is essential for good health, in particular to maintain healthy bones.  It must also be acknowledged that some people feel better if they have a tan.  Our understanding of the sun, its benefits and possible negative effects from excessive exposure has grown over recent years.  Most health experts consider the development of a tan to be an indication that the skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself against further damage. 

While the sun should be enjoyed, steps need to be taken to avoid overexposure.  We should also remember that to achieve    a tanned look, you could consider using self-tanning products.

Trying to tan quickly by not using sunscreen, or by using a low factor SPF, will increase the risk of damaging the skin and may also result in sunburn. It is possible to get a tan whilst wearing a high factor SPF. Even though the tan may take longer to develop, your risk of skin damage is lower. 

Most of the damage from the sun comes from UV (ultra violet) rays - UVA and UVB.

  • UVB rays penetrate into the outer layer of the skin and damages the cells resulting in inflamed skin or sunburn.

  • UVA rays penetrate more deeply causing direct damage to the skin's supporting tissues, which contributes to the signs of skin ageing.

Both types of rays are attributed to causing different skin cancers, including malignant melanoma.

The video below uses UV light to show how the sun sees you:

Sunlight also contains UVC rays, but these are completely absorbed by the upper atmosphere and therefore do not pose a problem for us.

Find out more

Read more