I grew up by the water. Actually, I grew up on an island (yes, really!).

Along with my younger sister, my dark-skinned Filipino mother and my fair-skinned Australian father raised us with the iconic catchphrase to “slip, slop, slap”. Because we were always at the beach; swimming, surfing or sailing; we learned – despite our naturally tanned complexions – that the sun can have a damaging effect on both our skin and our health.

In early 2013, you may have noticed the introduction of SPF 50+ sunscreens on Australian beauty shelves. Prior to that, the Therapeutic Goods Association didn’t allow SPF 50+ to be sold within our country due to various reasons.

So, what’s the difference between SPF 30+ and SPF 50+?

“SPF is all about time, not strength,” says Ken Lee, NIVEA Skin Care Expert. “[SPF] stands for Sun Protection Factor – being the length of time your skin is protected from sunburn, depending on your skin type.”

If you have fair skin and start turning red within 3 minutes, then an SPF 30 sunscreen will in theory, protect you for 3 x 30 = 90 minutes. An SPF50+ sunscreen will give you at least 3 x 50 = 150 minutes protection.

Still, if you think wearing a foundation or moisturiser with added SPF is enough, well, think again if you plan to spend a day on the beach. “Foundations and moisturisers that contain sunscreen are fine only if you are outside for short periods (like a quick trip to the shops),” advises Lee. “It’s best to reapply a normal sunscreen every two hours, not just in the morning, if you plan on spending longer periods of time in the sun.” It’s also important to keep in mind that most cosmetics offer sun protection at a moderate level, usually at about SPF15.

To show people just how damaging the sun can be, American artist Thomas Leveritt, who collaborated with NIVEA to show what sun damaged skin looks like under ultraviolet light, took to the beaches of Sydney to give Aussies a real-life view.

“The emotions unleashed when people see themselves in ultraviolet are so interesting; the unselfconscious glee or surprise or fascination is almost like an undiscovered tribe seeing themselves in the mirror for the first time,” says Leveritt. “Hopefully, people will watch the film and think, yeah, sunscreen’s not such a bad idea.”


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