Does sun cream go off and is SPF in makeup enough? Experts answer your top suncare queries

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We all know we should be wearing the best SPF to protect our skin, but are we actually doing it properly? It turns out there’s a LOT of confusion about sun cream, and getting it wrong could have some nasty consequences.

Because nobody wants to end up looking like a lobster, we’ve rounded up a host of experts to answer all your burning questions about sunscreen.

Now there’s no excuse for coming a cropper…

1) How much sun cream do you REALLY need and how often should you apply it?

Consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite swears by the "two finger rule" for applying the correct amount of sun cream to each of the 11 areas of your skin. That’s face and neck; left arm; right arm; upper back; lower back; chest; stomach; left thigh; right thigh; left leg and foot; right leg and foot.

“By squeezing out enough sunscreen to cover the length of two fingers, you get maximum coverage and optimal protection against those rays,” she told her Instagram followers in the below helpful post.

As for how often you need to reapply? Every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating, says The Skin Cancer Foundation.

2) Can you use last year’s sun cream?

Sun cream can go off, so the answer to this depends on a few factors. Generally speaking sun cream has a shelf life of up to three years, but every formula has its own expiry date.

On some, the expiry date is stamped on the bottle; on others you’ll find a tiny open jar icon along with a number, which indicates how long you can use the product after opening it.

Where you store your sun cream also has an effect. "Sunscreen which has been exposed to heat, direct sunlight, bacteria and moisture can degrade faster and provide less protection – or even none at all," says The Cosmetics Cop, Paula Begoun.

"Look at how the formula looks, feels and smells, before using it to protect your skin. If the texture has changed, for example become more watery or grainy, the product is discoloured or has a different odour to when you first opened it, the SPF could be off."

3) Should you apply sun cream before or after moisturiser?

Applying SPF in the morning is a must, but where it features in your skincare routine is the difference between bulletproof and watered-down sun protection.

“You should always apply sunscreen after moisturiser,” explains Begoun. "It should be the last step in your skincare routine. Any skincare product applied over the top of sunscreen dilutes it, lessening its effectiveness."

4) Is the SPF in makeup or moisturiser enough protection against the sun?

Using moisturiser and makeup containing SPF may sound like a time-saving step but the simple answer is no, according to consultant dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth.

"The amount of SPF you need to apply is much more than you would ever use with a foundation or moisturiser. A better option is to use a tinted sunscreen. Or, if you’re out in the sun but still want to wear a base, keep it light like a BB cream. Every 2-3 hours, use micellar water to cleanse your face, smooth on a teaspoon amount of sunscreen and reapply make-up over the top."

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5) Do you still need to wear SPF on cloudy days?

While your skin is at its most vulnerable when on holiday in the sun, the risk of skin damage is a year-round concern.

"Sunscreen is actually the best anti-ageing product you can use," says dermatologist Dr Hiva Fassihi. "It’s really important to use a sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days or in winter because UV, which is an invisible radiation, is present all year round."

"There are two types: UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and cause the changes we see with skin ageing, so it’s really important to protect against both and incorporate sunscreen into your daily regime so it becomes routine."

This is also true if you’re indoors but sit by a window. "You are still at risk of damage," warns Dr Fassihi. "UVB is blocked by glass but UVA travels through glass and deep into the skin. You won’t burn but you are more prone to signs of ageing like wrinkles."

Three SPFs OK! loves

Good for suncream haters: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Sun Protection SPF+50 Body Mist, £15 here

A great all-rounder for the whole family, the thermal spring water in the formula keeps the consistency light and airy rather than sticky and greasy.

Good for foundation lovers: Ultrasun Tinted Face Fluid SPF50+, £28 here

Gives the same coverage as a BB cream but with the added benefit of a robust broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Good for dry skin: Seventy One Invisible Sun Shield SPF 50+, get it for £7.50 here in the OK! Beauty Edit

The mineral filters in this sun cream form a barrier against UV rays while glycerin and omega-rich sunflower oil hydrate and nourish.

You’ll find a travel size bottle of this in the OK! Beauty Edit that Katie Piper has put together. New subscribers can snap up this product, alongside five others worth over £90 here for just £7.50, by using the code 50FIRSTBOX. Each box costs £15 thereafter.

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