Lesson 1: Stop calling it sunscreen and start calling it “lightscreen”.

If you do nothing else, do this!

Being a pragmatic person I like to learn information that I can apply in everyday life. Here is my crash course on sunscreen and sun damage. I am starting by advising you all to apply sun protection every morning without exception, even if you aren’t leaving the house. Yes, even indoors!

Go through my checklist, if you already do and know everything, you can thank yourself as the years roll by, sun-damage free.


Check the “lightscreen” you are using has at least SPF 30.

What number SPF should I be using?

The answer to this question is SPF 30 – SPF 50. If you would like to see why I suggest SPF 30 plus, just check out the graph below. SPF 30 protects you from 97% of UVB rays, and SPF 50 protects you from 98% UVB rays. If you have found the perfect sunscreen for you, and it is only SPF 30, don’t feel pressured to purchasing an SPF 50 instead. There is no such thing as 100% protection or sunblock.

SPF 30 is the minimum recommended SPF value. Keep an eye out for Zinc Oxide on your “lightscreen’s” label.

Check your “lightscreen” is “broad spectrum”

Day light is comprised of UVA and UVB light. You need a sun protectant that is “broad spectrum” and protects from both. Check the sun protectant you are applying every morning to make sure you are getting full protection. Zinc Oxide is the ingredient you are looking for that provides the best protection against both UVA and UVB.

UVA light is light that can pass through glass, it is known for ageing the skin. That’s right, the light coming in though your window of your house and car is ageing your skin. Is this the reason you have deeper lines and wrinkles on the right side of your face from driving? It could very well be contributing, or perhaps you are a side sleeper!

UVA can also pass through clouds. Unless it is night-time, there is UVA light. That’s why sunscreen should be renamed “lightscreen”. If there is daylight, you can get sun-damage! On a side note, UVA light is also the main light used in sunbeds…..need I say more….

UVB light cannot pass through glass/windows, this is the light that causes burns. Check out the (almost) unbelievable photograph below of a truck driver. See just how much damage UV light causes! 28 years of truck driving really demonstrates the importance of wearing sunscreen daily. The dramatic difference between the window and non-window side is truly remarkable.

Apply half a teaspoon for your face and neck. This is the quantity you need to cover the surface area of you face properly.

How much should I apply? Many of us do not apply a thick enough layer.

SPF is tested in the lab assuming sunscreen is applied evenly at a thickness of 2mg/cm2, so don’t scrimp!

It doesn’t count if the SPF is in in your make-up/foundation. This needs to be a separate stage.

Sunscreen to protect your skin is usually not effective when formulated in make-up or foundation. It needs to be a separate layer underneath. This is partly due to how much makeup you would need to apply in order to gain this effect (clown face), but also due to the fact that this sun protectant factor is unlikely to be broad spectrum, meaning you are still being exposed to those ageing UVA rays.

Consider a “lightscreen” with “blue light technology” protecting you from blue light emitted from phones/laptops etc.

Blue light causes hyperpigmentation, which can appear as brown spots and melasma. It also causes the breakdown of collagen, which leads to wrinkles and skin laxity. If your lifestyle involves a lot of laptop/screen time you might not want to go without.

Consider applying a Vitamin C serum underneath your SPF

When layered underneath sunscreen vitamin C helps protect the skin even further. It acts by helping neutralise free radicals that occur from UV light penetration.

Active Skincare Regimes need more care

So you have taken the time and consideration to be more proactive in achieving your skincare goals, and have incorporated retinol, AHAs or BHAs into your skincare regime. BEWARE, not to undo your good work. These active ingredients leave the skin more vulnerable to photoaging, so if you aren’t willing to commit to wearing sunscreen everyday, without exception, you would be best leaving these active ingredients out of your routine. Actually, you will inadvertently be accelerating the ageing process, definitely not the desired result. The same goes for anti-ageing treatments, such as peels, medical micro-needling and any laser treatments. If you aren’t wearing your SPF daily yet, then you aren’t a suitable candidate.

Use SPF to minimise those dark circles

As you now know, sunscreen helps prevent pigmentation, and therefore achieve a more even skin tone. We all know what pigmentation looks like, but did you know that melanin may also be contributing to making your eye bags look darker. Yes, you read that right. So SPF can help reduce dark circles, especially in darker skin types.

I hope after reading this you will agree with me on the importance of using daily “lightsceen”. As my clients, please feel free to chat to me on this topic, and perhaps I can help find you the right one for your skin, if you haven’t found it already! On the other hand, perhaps you are a long time convert, in which case keep up the good work and now you are ready to elevate your regime to include more “active ingredients”, which are the topics I will be covering over the next weeks.

Dr Maeve Barry