Slather it on: seven things dermatologists want you to know about sunscreen

<span>Make using sunscreen part of your skincare routine – and don’t forget to reapply it regularly.</span><span>Photograph: Boris Jovanovic/Stocksy United</span>
Make using sunscreen part of your skincare routine – and don’t forget to reapply it regularly.Photograph: Boris Jovanovic/Stocksy United

Longer summer days mean we’re stocking up on sunscreen. But although we all know how important it is to protect our skin from the UVA and UVB rays which can cause cancer and premature ageing, many of us still aren’t sure how best to do it.

A 2022 suncare study by La Roche-Posay1 showed that among women aged over 18, only 15% apply standalone sunscreens daily on their face, and just 48% of people in the UK wear it when the weather really calls for it.

Here, Dr Hiva Fassihi, a consultant dermatologist who specialises in skin cancer and often works with La Roche-Posay, offers the seven sun safety tips we all need to know – this summer and beyond.

1 Apply sunscreen to your face daily
Although our skin is unlikely to burn in the winter months when UVB rays are less strong, UVA rays remain constant throughout the year. UVA rays penetrate deep into our skin and damage our collagen, causing wrinkles, pigmentation and other signs of ageing.

“UVA can even come through windows and damage our skin when we’re indoors, so it’s best to wear sunscreen every day, all year,” says Fassihi. “Apply it after moisturiser and before makeup. If it’s part of your daily routine, you won’t get caught out on sunny days.”

2 An SPF moisturiser or foundation isn’t enough
If your moisturiser contains an SPF, it’s tempting to think you’re covered. That’s not the case, says Fassihi. “I always say to patients, think about what this product is primarily designed to do. If it’s primarily a moisturiser, it will be more effective at that than at protecting the skin from sun damage. You’d have to apply it very thickly to achieve the SPF it claims on the bottle, so it’s always better to begin with a base layer of actual sunscreen.”

With sunscreens available for every different type of skin, those looking to jettison one step of their routine can do so: “You could use a moisturising sunscreen which removes the need for a separate moisturiser,” she advises. “That’s much better than using a moisturiser and no sunscreen or a moisturiser that contains an SPF.”

3 Factor 50 is best
The idea of factor 50 can often seem off-putting, as people assume it will feel thick and heavy on the skin, and many believe such a high factor isn’t necessary in the UK.

However, Fassihi says: “When you look at the data about how much we’re actually applying, it can end up not delivering the necessary protection. So I’d say that using SPF 50 helps ensure you’ve still got a good level of protection.”

Formulations developed especially for the face, such as La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios UVMune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF 50+, are so lightweight they can’t be seen or felt. “When I show people in my clinic, they’re really surprised by how it disappears,” she says. “It’s ideal for underneath makeup.”

4 Use more than you might think
“Whereas with a moisturiser, you rub it in, with sunscreen you want to apply it so there’s a visible film on the skin and then give it three to five minutes to soak in,” says Fassihi. “Then you can apply makeup on top.”

During summer months, she recommends applying sunscreen to other visible areas of skin, such as arms and the back of the neck. And don’t forget the golden rules: don’t stay too long in the sun; avoid the hottest hours; and wear protective clothing, such as hats.

Wearing sunscreen daily shouldn’t block our production of vitamin D, but the NHS recommends taking a daily supplement in autumn and winter to maintain optimum levels.

5 Reapply it after activity
“The best modern sunscreens are very photostable, which means their UV filters aren’t broken down by exposure to UV rays – so if you just sit in the office all day, the sunscreen should stay active for longer. But if you’re active and sweating, or you’ve wiped your skin, it will come off,” she says.

It’s a message echoed by world No 1 tennis pro Jannik Sinner, the new global brand ambassador for Anthelios, with the player revealing that he reapplies sunscreen every two hours when he’s on the court, and advising the rest of us to “make every day a sunscreen day”.

Fassihi agrees: “When you’re on holiday or during hot summer days at home, it should be reapplied frequently and generously. For ordinary days, I love using a sunscreen face mist such as the Anthelios one, which you can spritz over the top of makeup at lunchtime without having to redo it.”

6 Which sunscreen do dermatologists recommend?
“I recommend the Anthelios UVMune 400 range, it’s hypoallergenic and has a formulation for every skin type and age,” says Fassihi. “It’s the result of the most up-to-date research there is and gives the broadest range of protection possible. It has an innovative filter called MEXORYL 400, which is La Roche-Posay’s most efficient UV filter against the most penetrative UV rays.

“Anthelios sunscreen also gives a beautiful, even film of sunscreen on the skin, which doesn’t run.”

7 Even darker skin needs protection
“No matter your skin tone, you should still use sunscreen,” says Fassihi. “All skin tones can burn and show signs of facial ageing, so it’s important to protect your skin from sun exposure no matter your tone or type.”

It’s thought by some that using fake tan can offer protection from the sun, but this is a myth. “Sunscreen is most definitely still needed,” the doctor says.

Ace your summer with La Roche-Posay Anthelios, the UK’s No 1 dermatologist-recommended brand for sun protection2, and sponsor of the Guardian’s Wimbledon 2024 coverage

1 Source: Suncare Usage, Attitudes and Behaviours Study: L’Oréal UK 2022, 2CV.
2 Study of 73 consultant dermatologists Jan-April 2023. For more information visit: