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Sunblock for beginners

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Q: How do I work out which SPF I need this summer? I still want to get a tan but it’s getting hard find anything lower than a 15 these days?

Matt, Dundee

Our expert Ahmed Zambarakji answers your questions below:

A: Most guys are perplexed by the convoluted SPF system and all the contradictory information about sun protection that's out there. Generally speaking, Brits seem to think that the higher the number on the bottle, the less of a tan they’ll get. Not so. The number actually relates to the amount of time a block will work for before you burn alive or get something called erythema (the pimply red rash that looks like an allergic reaction).

To work out which factor you need, follow the advice of Dr Tom Mammone, Clinique’s Executive Director of Biological Research. He says “multiply the SPF by the amount of time it takes you to burn without sunscreen and that’s the number of minutes’ worth of protection you will get”. As a rough guide, it takes a really fair guy about 3-4 minutes to burn, whereas a guy with olive or Mediterranean skin can take 10 minutes. And, yes, black skin burns too.

There’s a good reason anything lower than a 15 is hard to find in this day and age – it’s categorically insane / dangerous not to protect yourself from UV exposure when we have those enormous gaping holes in the O-Zone layer. In fact, an SPF 15 should be your bare minimum for use in the city (and I’m including overcast days in Britain in that statement).

Finally, don’t base your sun protection choice on how hot or sunny it looks from your hotel window. Pay attention to the weather forecast and you’ll notice that the met office actually issue a UV number based on things like the sun's location, cloud activity, height, ozone data etc. The higher the number in the UV index, the more intense the sun will be and the more you’ll need to cover up. Niche brands like the venerable Institut Esthederm from France (available in the UK from spacenk.co.uk) have scrapped the antiquated SPF system and categorise their blocks according to the UV Index.

Find Ahmed on theexfoliator.com

(Image: Rex Features)

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