Knowing which sunscreen to buy isn't as straightforward as it could be.
We've said this many times before but sunscreen label complexity (imposed on us by regulators) must be one of the biggest crimes in the cosmetics industry.
Different numbers, icons and symbols create confusion and apathy. And, in simple terms, neither are a good starting place when it comes to a quasi-medical product that protects you and which could, ultimately, help prevent you getting serious skin damage.
Humans and choice
In the words of of Seth Godin, a brand guru whose books we read when starting out LifeJacket:
People are good at “a, b or c?”. Not as good at “pick a card, any card.” And terrible at, “think of a number between one and a trillion.”
It's often easier just to be told what to do. But not always. Sometimes, the chase and research can be an enjoyable part of a purchase. For example, a new bike.
However, when it comes to sunscreen, we recognise it probably falls into the category of 'just tell me what to do'. Not necessarily for everyone but certainly for most.
And because we've been fielding precisely this question a lot recently, we thought we'd save you the headspace and give you some answers.
If you'll trust us, this is our philosophy
As we created the LifeJacket brand and products, simplicity has been at the heart of what we believe in. This includes the language we use on packaging, the no-nonsense focus on science not marketing, the way we present the information to you and above all, the simplified range we decided to develop.
But this journal post isn't meant to be about us. So, in the interests of saving you time and making your life easier when it comes protecting your body's largest organ, here's some simple and binary advice based on our philosophy.
When you know you'll be outside for a sustained period of time and UV levels are high, we recommend using SPF 50+ protection.
The extra SPF protects you for longer so fewer re-applications are needed. For those of you using sun protection for sport, we know re-applications can mean lost time so this is another reason for suggesting the higher SPF.
After that, it just comes down to personal preference in terms of format: dry oil spray vs. handheld/small stick vs. non-greasy sunscreen.
All our products work well in water, can survive sweat and shouldn't cause your eyes to sting. They glide on without a greasy skin-feel thanks to the high performance ingredients we've chosen to use.
For the ultimate in waterproof, we’d suggest the Mineral Sun Stick, Sun Protection Spray and then Sun Gel (in that order).
Finally, we also sell a small 30ml aluminium refill bottle you can put your favourite product inside and stick in a pocket.
In all other instance, you should use an SPF 30 product at a minimum.
When we say 'all other instances', we should clarify that this really does mean at ALL other times.
The sun's harmful UV rays reach your skin every single day, even in winter. Light is what causes damage, not heat - the biggest myth we encounter. You might not think it but even in winter, these rays can penetrate the outer layers of your skin and cause DNA damage. In extremis, this damage may cause or lead to skin cancer.
That's precisely why we encourage you to wear skin protection all year round. A good little trick is to use a daily moisturiser with SPF every morning. Then you don't even need to think about it - two birds one stone, and all that. Brush your teeth, put on skin protection and be on your way.
Needless to say, our highly rated SPF 30 Daily Protection Moisturiser is our hero product and sits at the very heart of our range.
No more decision fatigue
So, it really is that easy: A or B.
SPF 50+ when you know you'll be outside for a while or when the UV levels are strong.
SPF 30 for everything else.
Strictly speaking, that's A and B.
But please do make sure you use SPF protection all year round, no matter where you are or what you're doing.
The reason we started LifeJacket is because skin cancer is 90% preventable yet it's still the most common cancer in the world and continuing to grow. Everyday protection, checking your skin and being a bit more diligent when you're outside are all great ways to avoid serious skin damage so you can just focus on being outside and doing what you love.