Read by Anne Thestrup Meimbresse

Pharmacist, Varde Pharmacy

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This is how sunscreen works

As we enter the warmer spring and summer months, the sun's rays become brighter - resulting in a higher UV index. The index indicates how intense the sun's ultraviolet rays, which are harmful to the skin, are and is therefore a measurement to help protect your skin.

As a rule of thumb, you should use sunscreen when the UV index is 3 or more. This is because sunscreens have substances that set up a filter to protect you from the sun. In some sunscreens, the substances create a chemical filter that blocks most of the sun's rays by absorbing the radiation. In other sunscreens, a physical filter acts as a barrier on top of the skin, reflecting away the rays that hit your skin.


The longevity of sunscreen

A sunscreen can typically last for 12 months after you open it. However, the shelf life will be shorter if you store your sunscreen at high temperatures.

So if you take your sunscreen to the beach or pool for a long time, you can't count on being able to use the same tube of sunscreen next summer.

If your sunscreen smells rancid or has changed colour or consistency, you should throw it away and buy a new one to make sure it actually works.


Find the best sunscreen for your skin

The sun's rays are a source of light, heat and vitamin D. It's great to be warmed by the sun, but you need to be very careful when spending time in the sun. And as soon as the cold and dark winter turns to spring with its burgeoning warmth and light, it's a good idea to be ready with your sunscreen. You'll find sun cream everywhere - including here at Australian Bodycare. So there's no excuse not to protect yourself. But which sun cream should you choose?

When looking for a sun cream to protect your skin, the first thing you need to make sure is that it protects against both UV-A and UV-B rays. If it lacks either of these, you won't get enough broad-spectrum protection for your skin. The sun emits different types of rays that can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, where they can do a lot of damage.

There are lots of different sunscreens on the market. Some are rich in Aloe Vera, while others are high in Tea Tree Oil. Both ingredients moisturise and nourish the skin. And you can get sun protection as a cream, lotion or spray. It's a good idea to use one type of sun cream for your body and another for your face.

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UV-A, UV-B and SPF

The sun's rays are invisible and are known as ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are both UVA and UVB rays and both types of rays can be dangerous in excessive amounts. It is therefore important that your sun cream protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) only tells you how well your sun cream protects against UVB rays, which can cause sunburn. But both types of rays increase the risk of skin cancer.

The UV index indicates the intensity of harmful UV radiation. If the UV index is low and below 3, you do not need to use sun cream. But when the UV index rises above 3, you should remember the sun protection advice about sun cream, light clothing and shade.

On a good summer day in Northern Europe, the UV index can reach 7. At the equator, on the other hand, the UV index can be as high as 15.

In the UK, it is only during the spring/summer months that the UV index is so high that we need to remember to wear sun cream. But if you are travelling south, it can easily be completely different.

So remember the sunscreen when you go on a winter sun holiday - and remember to pack sunscreen when you go on a skiing holiday.

In Northern Europe, you can usually get away with using SPF 15, unless you have very fair or sensitive skin.

If you are travelling south, however, you will need a sunscreen with a higher factor. However, a higher factor number does not provide significantly more protection, so the most important thing is still to stay in the sun only for short periods of time.

Factor 15 blocks 93% of the sun's UV rays, factor 30 blocks 96% of the rays and factor 50 blocks 98% of UV radiation.


Sunscreen for face

Although the protection in sunscreens for face and body is exactly the same, several manufacturers make a special version for facial sun protection. This is because your facial skin is more sensitive than the skin on your body. Therefore, the face requires a different type of cream that gently protects the skin, and it needs to be extra mild.

For example, if you suffer from oily skin and acne, you should avoid sunscreens packed with oils. This will only encourage the formation of oil in the skin and give you a shiny, glossy complexion. On the other hand, if you have dry skin on your face, it's a good idea to go for a moisturising sunscreen.

Most facial sunscreens are so light, delicious and nourishing that they can replace your day cream during the summer months. So you can use them when you're going to the beach or when you're going to a summer party and want to apply a light make-up over your sun cream.


Prevent sunburn with sunscreen

When the sun is shining, sun-seeking Danes flock to the beach to get a tan. If you want to enjoy the sun, it is important that you do so in moderation. While you are in the sun, make sure you use plenty of sun cream to avoid sunburn.

Most people apply sun cream to the areas not covered by clothing when they go out in the sun. The problem is that they don't apply enough. How much sun cream is actually enough? As a rule of thumb, you should use a whole handful for a whole body. If you only apply a thin layer, you won't be protected by the factor indicated on the cream and you'll be more likely to get a sunburn.

As far as possible, avoid being in the sun from 12-15. This is when the sun's rays are at their harshest. So seek shade during the 'hard' hours of sunshine and swim in the pool or the sea in the morning and late afternoon.

You should also wear a hat and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun's harsh rays. And don't forget to apply sun cream if you've sweated a lot or been in the water. Even if the sun cream is water-repellent.


Aloe Vera sunscreen

The sun is hard on the skin. Try a sun cream with Aloe Vera, for example, which with a factor 30 effectively protects the skin against UV-A and UV-B rays. A sun cream made with Aloe Vera gives your skin an intensive moisturising boost, which is much needed when the sun, salt water and other summer ingredients dry out the skin.

So sun cream with Aloe Vera moisturises and softens the skin while providing protection from the sun. It also has a cooling, healing and soothing effect on the skin.

The sun is the worst enemy of wrinkled skin. Insufficient protection from the sun causes the skin to age. Ultraviolet rays accelerate the natural ageing process, resulting in thinner and weaker skin. With an Aloe Vera sun cream you can retain moisture and strength, as Aloe Vera is known for its healing and anti-ageing properties, effectively protecting skin cells and preserving skin elasticity.


Sunscreen with Tea Tree Oil

If you suffer from oily and blemished skin, sunscreens can often make matters worse. Their oily texture clogs pores with sebum and bacteria. The solution is a factor 15 sun cream based on Tea Tree Oil. The Australian oil has been loved for decades for its effective antiseptic and antibacterial properties - which is why it's great for oily, pimple-prone skin.

At the same time, Tea Tree Oil soothes the skin, which needs relaxation after a day in the heat and sun. The oil helps to keep your exposed skin hydrated, well-nourished and in a natural moisture balance - without making it even more oily.


Find the best sunscreen for your kids

Sun protection is always essential. But especially when it comes to children, it's crucial. The more times you have suffered sunburn in your childhood, the higher your risk of developing skin cancer. That's why it's particularly important to take extra care of children's delicate skin.

There are special sunscreens for children. They provide the same protection as 'adult sunscreens'. However, the difference is that the creams do not contain the same amount of allergenic ingredients, because children's skin is more sensitive and more vulnerable. When choosing a sun cream for your child, the best option is a fragrance-free sun cream. This is because sun cream needs to stay on the skin for a long time, so a perfumed sun cream could irritate children's delicate skin.

Always choose a sun cream with a high sun protection factor to give your child the best possible protection, especially if they have fair skin. Children - and adults for that matter - with fair skin are more prone to sunburn.

For children playing in the garden and on the beach or swimming in the pool and sea, a UV suit is also a good idea. The suit ensures that children are protected at all times. But remember to apply a high-factor sun cream to the face, hands, legs and feet that are not covered by the suit.


Use aftersun when your skin burns

The purpose of using sun cream is to avoid sunburn and sun damage. But even though we know that we should be careful in the sun, sometimes we enjoy the sun a little too long and our skin gets a sunburn.

Sunburned skin stings, itches, itches and hurts. It's really uncomfortable, and a more severe sunburn can also make you feel really bad, with nausea and discomfort.

A sunburn is a burn of the skin. And with burns, it is important to cool and soothe the skin. You can start by taking a cold bath. Then it's all about nourishing, moisturising and replenishing the skin.

You can nourish your skin with a good aftersun containing Aloe Vera or Tea Tree Oil. Both are known for their skin-friendly, conditioning and moisturising properties.

Aloe Vera also has a cooling effect on the skin.

Sunburnt skin needs plenty of moisture to prevent it from drying out. A good aftersun will do the trick. Later, you can switch to a good, nourishing and moisturising body lotion.

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FAQ – often asked questions about sunscreen


How does sunscreen work?

Sunscreens work by setting up filters that prevent the sun's rays from penetrating the skin and causing damage. The sun emits both UV-A and UV-B rays, and the filters in sunscreens prevent most of the skin-damaging rays from penetrating the upper and deeper skin barrier.


Can suscreen go bad?

Yes, sun cream can go bad. If left for a long time or in high temperatures, for example on the beach, it can become rancid. And then it has gone bad. You can check the smell, colour and consistency before applying last year's sunscreen. Typically, it will keep for 12 months at room temperature.


What SPF should I use?

In the UK, it is generally sufficient to use a sun cream with a factor of 15. However, as soon as you move further towards the equator, the UV index increases and a high factor is needed. Preferably factor 30 or factor 50 if you have very fair and sensitive skin.


How long does sunscreen last for?

Sun cream typically lasts for a few hours if you apply it before going out in the sun. This will help it to set better on your skin. If you dry your skin with a towel, sweat a lot or have been in the water, you will need to reapply another layer of sun cream.


Can I still tan with sunscreen?

You can get a tan with sun cream. It is a common myth that sun cream prevents you from getting a tan. It just takes a little longer because most of the sun's rays that tan your skin are blocked. In return, you get a more beautiful and longer-lasting glow.


What sunscreen should I choose?

You should always choose a sunscreen that offers protection against UV-A and UV-B rays. It is not enough to be protected against only one of them. Look for versions that are based on natural ingredients and free of allergenic substances. And don't forget to choose a variant specifically designed for delicate facial skin.


What is SPF?

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) tells you how well the suncreen protects against UVB rays. However, always choose a sun cream that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, as both types are dangerous in excessive amounts. A sunscreen with a high factor number does not provide significantly more protection than a sunscreen with a lower factor number. For example, factor 15 blocks 93% of the sun's UV rays, factor 30 blocks 96% of the rays and factor 50 blocks 98% of UV radiation.


How much sunscreen should I use?

As a general rule, you should use a whole handful per body. It is important to apply plenty of sun cream on your skin, otherwise the protection will not match the factor indicated on the cream. And then you risk getting sunburnt.


When should I use sunscreen?

As a general rule, you should use Sunscreen when the UV index, which indicates the intensity of the sun's rays, is 3 or more. Apply sun cream about 20 minutes before you are going to be in the sun and apply it every 2-3 hours, or if you swim or sweat a lot.

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