Month: July 2023

What is SPF, and why is it important?

SPF Factors Explained

It needn’t be a sweltering day to feel the full force of the sunshine. Even in overcast conditions, sunlight remains extremely strong, penetrating clouds and even glass.

And with that sunlight, come plentiful supplies of UV rays. These can covertly and very gradually damage the skin, cause wrinkles, and increase the chance of developing skin cancer, especially if skin is over-exposed and under-protected.

While we won’t be suggesting you avoid the sun completely or give up that golden tan, you can minimise the risk of sun damage by getting to know what’s on your sun cream bottle, and what that means for your sun protection. Take a look at our top tips below about what SPF means, how SPF works, and how often you should apply sun cream.

Understanding your sunscreen bottle What does the SPF number mean? 

SPF stands for sun protection factor which acts as a yardstick for the length of time the sun’s UV radiation will take to burn your skin versus if you were unprotected. For example, an SPF 30 sun cream should take you 30 times longer to burn than if you were wearing no sun cream, as it allows around 3% of UVB rays to reach your skin. Likewise, SPF 50 would take 50 times longer to make you burn and allows around just 2% of UVB rays through. This only applies, of course, if you are applying sun lotion as directed on the bottle and reapplying as instructed.

What does UVA and UVB mean?

Beyond what SPF means, your sun lotion bottle provides much more vital info about its sun protection level, including the differences between UVA and UVB. UVA (ultraviolet A) penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and has a longer-lasting effect. These types of rays are closely linked with skin cancer and premature ageing, such as wrinkles, leathery skin, and sun spots. UVB (ultraviolet B) has shorter wavelengths than UVA and is more commonly displayed on sun cream bottles; it is also the main cause of sunburn and is linked with some skin cancers.

Where is the expiry date on sun cream?

Not had a chance to buy new sunscreen this summer? Are you wondering how long sun cream lasts as you’re looking to apply last year’s bottle? To know when suncream expires, all you need to do is look out for the symbol that looks like an open jar on the sunscreen bottle. This has a number inside that tells you how long the product should be used after it has been opened. For example, if you see “12M” in the open jar, then the sun cream should be used within 12 months of cracking it open. After that time, the sun cream becomes ineffective – no matter how high the sun protection factor is. As such, try to remember when you last opened it and, if you know you used it last year, it’s time to buy a fresh one.

How often should I apply sun cream and how much should I be wearing?

While many dermatologists will recommend wearing sun cream everyday to provide constant sun protection (yes, even during the winter), during summer, when the sun is at its hottest, you should consider reapplying sun lotion every two hours. If you are out and about during the hottest point of the day, have sensitive skin, go swimming, or sweat a lot, you may need to increase the frequency. As for how much sun cream you should apply, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 35ml (around seven teaspoons) for all over body coverage. This amount of sun cream should cover a teaspoon on the head and neck, one teaspoon on each arm, each leg, your front, and your back. Generally, we don’t apply enough sun cream to our bodies which means, while we think we’re doing everything we can to protect our skin, we could be greatly reducing our level of sun protection. If in doubt, apply more, not less.

What SPF should I use?

It goes without saying that, for maximum sun protection, a higher SPF is advised. .The decision comes down to what you know about your skin. Are you prone to burning at the first sight of sun? Is your skin pale? Have you any skin conditions? If you know your skin has a low tolerance to sun exposure, it is always better to be over-cautious with sun protection and opt for a higher SPF, even if it is cloudy. Other than sun protection factor, what else should you be looking for on your sunscreen bottle? Water-resistant sun creams are most effective as they are able to wick away sweat, rain, and swimming water. Sprays don’t always play well with windy weather and tanning oils – which develop a deeper tan through attracting more UVB rays – will deepen your chance of burning. Also don’t forget to consult the UVA and UVB ratings on the bottle when choosing between sun creams: they should say ‘high’ or ‘very high’ or provide a star rating of 4 or more (the higher the rating, the better)

7 tips on dealing with financial stress

Money concerns can place a strain on your mental health, and vice versa. Here are 7 tips to help you cope with financial stress.

In recent years, we have become more aware of the importance of looking after our mental health. And we have seen the negative impact events such as the pandemic have had. A survey conducted last year by mental health charity Mind, found that around a third of adults and young people said their mental health had significantly worsened since March 2020.

This added pressure has meant that more people are feeling anxious about their financial futures. Kerry McLeod, Head of Information Content at Mind explains the link between mental health and financial stress. “Poor mental health can make earning and managing money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health worse. It can start to feel like a vicious cycle.

“Certain situations might trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, like opening envelopes. Money problems can affect your social life and relationships too, and they can make you feel lonely or isolated, if you can’t afford to do the things you want to.”

While sorting things out might feel overwhelming, she advises, “learning how mental health and money are connected might help if you’re struggling. Try taking things one step at a time.”

Top tips

1. Ask for help

If you’re struggling because of money issues and related anxiety, talking to someone can be of great benefit – a loved one, a health professional like your GP, or an advice service such as the Government’s Money Helper service. Advice services can offer some help with next steps, such as any financial assistance you may be entitled to.

2. Spot the signs of financial stress

It’s important to manage financial stress, as leaving it unchecked can impact your health. Too much stress can lead to sleep problems, anxiety and depression. Physical symptoms, such as headaches and high blood pressure, or even unhealthy coping methods such as heavy drinking, which will likely make things feel worse. Try to manage your stress with free, regular exercise. Techniques such as mindfulness and healthy eating will also help. If you are concerned about your mental or physical health, talk to your GP.

3. Check your finances

It’s easy to lose track of what you’re spending. Note down all your outgoings and work out what you spend your money on, weekly or monthly. Try free, easy-to-use apps and tools such as Money Helper.

4. Get organised

Having all your financial information (bank accounts, bills etc) in one place can help reduce money-related stress. Also, schedule a regular time to deal with money tasks and plan a relaxing (and stress-busting) activity afterwards such as a walk or run.

5. Know your money and mood patterns

Keep a diary of your spending and your mood. Are there certain times when you’re more likely to spend money, which aspects of dealing with money make your mental health worse? Understanding your relationship with money could help you plan ahead for difficult times.

6. Take control

Make a plan to help ease your financial stress. Deleting apps and not saving your card details on websites can stop the temptation of impulse purchases. Hand over your cards to someone you trust or avoid debit/credit card payments by taking out a set amount of cash every day or week.

7. Get help with debts

Reduce your anxiety related to debt by talking to a free professional debt advice organization such as Citizens Advice. You may be able to get a break from paying debt interest under a Government scheme.

Remember that being afraid to open bills or check your bank account will only store up future problems and may potentially cause even more stress. It’s important to know that there are many people in the same situation, and that by asking for help, you are taking a positive first step to improving both your financial and mental health.

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