Know your SPF, UVA and UVB so you can have fun in the sun without burning up

By Heidi Yeung

Our Aussie-raised beauty guru grew up with the concept of "slip, slop, slap", which means: slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat to protect against sun damage. Here's what you need to know about sun protection

By Heidi Yeung |

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With summer just around the corner, it's time to prepare for the blazing sun. If you slack off during winter, that's something we need to talk about, but it's doubly important to protect your skin in the hottest, sunniest season.

Sun protection is key for healthy, happy skin. A moderate dose of sunshine without wearing sunscreen is okay, because that is one of the most effective ways to increase vitamin D in your body. But too much - any more than 10-15 minutes - will lead to skin damage or even skin cancer.

Not sure which sunscreen to get? Here are some tips:

  • The number on the product tells you how long it will protect your skin for. For example, if you normally burn in the sun within 10 minutes, a sunscreen with SPF 20 will extend that safety window by 20 times, so you'll be protected for approximately 200 minutes. Can't be bothered with the maths? SPF 30 is a safe bet.
  • SPF offers ultraviolet B (UVB) protection, but it's just as important to be protected against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. So look for products that protect against both types of rays. Look for ones that offer broad spectrum or multi-spectrum protection, or with SPF and PA.

    (L-R) Sunplay Super Block (HK$89.9 citywide) and Nature's Reddened Skin Face Cream SPF 20 (HK$420 at Nature's)


  • If you have sensitive skin, pay close attention to the ingredients: avoid alcohol and fragrance which might make you react. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are generally safe and effective, though for sensitive or young skin. (Keep in mind, though, that they're reflective ingredients which make the sun's rays bounce off your skin, so if you're going to be taking lots of photos, you will look a bit white!
  • One application of sunscreen in the morning won't last all day, so remember to reapply as often as instructed on the packaging.
  • If you're going to the beach, or tend to sweat a lot under the sun, choose a sunscreen that is water- and sweat-resistant. They'll last longer - but still need reapplying!
  • Remember to pay special attention to your eyes and mouth - their skin is very delicate, so be sure to use SPF there! And too much sun can damage your eyes and lead to vision loss as you get older, so wear sunglasses, or a big floppy hat!
  • Be aware that when you're near reflective surfaces like water, concrete, glass or snow, the chances of getting sunburnt increases. (NB If you're going skiing and think you don't need sunscreen because a) it's cold, and b) you're all covered up, think again. Wear sunscreen on your face, or your blushes of embarrassment will just add to the redness of your burn.
  • Don't slack off on your SPF just because it's an overcast day. Yes, the clouds are there, but so are the UVB and UVA!
  • Don't forget to remove sunscreen properly at the end of the day with a body wash and face cleanser. You don't want your damage-free skin to suffer from clogged pores!

(L-R) Sarafit UV Mist (HK$109.9 citywide); Jurlique Sun Specialist SPF 40 High Protection Cream (HK$360 at Jurlique); Bioré UV Aqua Rich Face (HK$99.9 citywide)