How to get the most out of your sunscreen with SPF-boosting skincare ingredients

Whether you’re off to Cornwall, Croatia or simply lounging in the garden, if the sun’s out, the sunscreen should be, too.

But did you know that you can supercharge your protection against the sun and the damaging effects afterwards by adding well-known skincare ingredients to your application process?

‘Consumers can, at times, be overly cautious about mixing other products with SPF but actives such vitamins A, C and E and hyaluronic acid can act as superchargers for sun care as a result of their naturally protective properties,’ says Dr Miriam Adebibe, of aesthetics clinic Victor and Garth.

‘For example, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which prevents oxidative damage by binding to the free radicals caused by UV radiation and pollution.

‘Vitamin C absorbs UVB light and research has shown that when paired with sunscreen, it boosts the protection provided by the SPF.

‘Exposure to UV stimulates melanocytes (melanin-producing cells), which manifest through sunspots, freckles and hyperpigmentation.

‘This damage can lie underneath the skin and surface later in life. Vitamin C is also a depigmenting agent, otherwise known as a tyrosinase inhibitor, which means that it can stop the action of tyrosine, which is key in melanin synthesis, and prevent hyperpigmentation.

‘It also reduces the effects of sunburn and unlike sunscreen, it can’t be washed off, so it continues to reduce sunburn for days after absorption.’

Dr Miriam advises applying a vitamin C serum daily before your SPF. ‘It can make it look a bit red at first, so start with a low strength and work your way up to a 15% solution according to how your skin responds.’

Vitamins A and E are also hero ingredients. ‘Research has shown that alongside vitamin C, vitamins A and E are photo-protective and absorb UVB light so can be used alongside sunscreen to boost your skin’s protection,’ she says.

How to factor in the proper protection

‘When selecting the best sun protection, first take time to understand the numbers,’ says Abi Cleeve, managing director of award- winning suncare brand, Ultrasun.

‘It can be confusing with various ratings, star systems and what constitutes medium, high and very high protection, but it’s crucial to get this right.

‘The best sun cream is the one we will actually use. You can have the highest protection but if it stays in the bottle, it’s no good. Go for lightweight formulations that sink in easily. For quick and easy, go for a gel or spray, and if you crave hydration, a light lotion.

‘Protection level is the priority and the detail is in the numbers. UVB rays are measured by the SPF number and I recommend a minimum of SPF30 year-round, especially on the face, under make-up. For those with fair or sensitive skin, use an SPF50, and consider an SPF50+. The “plus” after the 50 actually means the product is tested to be at least SPF60, so a significant increase in protection.

‘However, UVA rays are not blocked by SPF. We need special UVA absorbers to shield from these deeply penetrative rays that pass unhindered through glass and cause skin damage all year round.

‘Opt for a product that delivers a UVA filter of over 90%, as the EU standard only requires 33%. Look for the percentage to be displayed on the product. Ensure the first application of the day is indoors at least 15 minutes before going outside. Applied in sunlight, up to 60% of the product can evaporate before it has bonded with the skin.

‘Get the right product for your skin and you’ll do the most important thing – use it every day.’

‘Studies show that vitamin A, in the form of retinyl palmitate (much weaker than retinol), is as effective as SPF20 in preventing sunburn. Consumers are told to be careful in the sun when wearing retinol because it has exfoliating properties and sunlight can break it down and make it redundant. However, retinyl has photo-protective properties which absorb UVB radiations and the antioxidants in retinyl have also been shown to improve the appearance of photo-aged skin.

‘In addition to photo-protection, vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that reduces photo-ageing and it works closely with vitamin C, which recycles vitamin E molecules to be used again and again.’

We all know that the sun is drying, so Dr Miriam suggests following time outside with some squalene and hyaluronic acid products.

‘These are great hydrators. They prevent loss of moisture and are effective at replenishing dehydrated skin.’

What’s more, the benefits of these ingredients are well-known by brands – so watch out for SPF products that already contain ingredients such as vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, to truly supercharge your sunscreen.

Need some help getting started? Here are our sunscreen picks

Daily Deflector Mineral Sunscreen SPF30

Kate Somerville’s Daily Deflector Mineral Sunscreen SPF30 boasts vitamin E to neutralise free radicals

Buy it for £42 from Kate Somerville.

Oskia Vitamin Face Cream SPF30

With protection against collagen loss and vitamin E, Oskia Vitamin Face Cream SPF30 is hardworking.

Buy it for £60 from Oskia.

Ringana Fresh SPF20

Natural brand Ringana’s Fresh SPF20 contains vitamins E and C to prevent oxidative damage.

Buy it for £36 from Ringana.

Ultrasun Face Anti-Pigmentation Tinted SPF50+

Ultrasun Face Anti-pigmentation Tinted SPF50+ helps prevent photo-ageing.

Buy it for £32 from SpaceNK.

SkinCity Light Emulsion SPF50

SkinCity Light Emulsion SPF50 contains moisturising glycerine and squalene as well as vitamin E.

Buy it for £24 from SkinCity.

Sun Day Facial UV Defence SPF50

Tropic’s Sun Day Facial UV Defence SPF50 is formulated with prebiotics and hyaluronic acid to hydrate.

Buy it for £24 from Tropic Skincare.

Heliocare 360 Oil-free Gel SPF50

Heliocare 360 Oil-free Gel SPF50 boasts antioxidants plus vitamins C and E.

Buy it for £31 from Heliocare.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

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