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2017.08.18 - Sun protection creams: how to choos the right one

Sun protection creams: how to choose the right one

It is a typical scene at the swimming pool in the summer that people are busy applying suntan lotion, sunscreen or sun protection cream. However, this scene can only take place if it is preceded by another scene: men or women standing in front of the shelves in a drugstore, trying to pick the right one from the many sun protection creams available. It is a decision that must be made responsibly, even more so if one would like to prevent their children’s skin from getting burnt. Which suntan lotion to buy? In the following we are giving you a few pieces of information that can help you choose the sunscreen that suits your needs the most.  

Római strand

Do we need sun protection at all?

In the summer, especially when we are staying next to the sea, a lake, river or swimming pool, one must use some kind of sun protection cream. Those who don’t put any suntan lotion on before sunbathing are either irresponsible or don’t know enough about what strong sunshine can do to their skin. It depends on the skin type how much time it takes for a person to get burnt if they stay in the sun without protection, but one thing is for sure: nobody can spend half a day unprotected at the swimming pool without getting burnt. The skin has a natural UV protection mechanism – it is melanin that is responsible for having brown skin, also absorbing the harmful rays of the sun. People with brown skin produce more melanin, therefore they are safer in the sun, but those with a pale skin practically get burnt instantly when staying in the sun. A tan one gets during the summer offers greater protection, so it can happen that somebody uses an SPF 30 suntan lotion at the beginning of the summer, but by the end of summer they put on a sunscreen with a lower SPF.    


What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for sun protection factor and in the following we are going to explain what SPF numbers indicate. Using an SPF 30 suntan lotion means we can spend 30 times more time in the sun and don’t get burnt than without it. For instance the average person gets burnt in about 20 minutes when the sunshine is the strongest, so by using an SPF 30 suntan lotion they can spend up to 10 hours in the sun without getting burnt. A Nordic-type person with a light skin could only spend 3 minutes in the sun without getting burnt, but by using an SPF 30 suntan lotion this period is extended to one and a half hours.

The time we can safely spend in the sun doesn’t only depend on the SPF number of the suntan lotion we use, but also on our skin type and on the strength and composition of the sunshine!

UV-A and UV-B

There are two types of ultraviolet rays that can do harm to our skin: UV-A that is more akin to the light visible and is less intense, and UV-B that is characterised by a smaller wavelength and is therefore more intense. Both types of rays age the skin and damage its DNA, which means that they can cause cancer. When specifying a sun protection cream’s SPF number, experts usually only examine the UV-B protection, in spite of the fact that UV-A rays are just as harmful according to the latest research results. Consequently, when buying a suntan lotion we must look for those products which have a broad spectrum – the ones that filter out all types of harmful rays.

For more information it is worth learning about the test results of the Hungarian Authority for Consumer Protection (NFH) at

Physical and chemical sun protection

Among the components of sun protection creams we can find physical and chemical ones. It is physical sun protection components that provide the greatest protection, what is more, they have few harmful effects because they don’t get absorbed through the skin, they form a long-lasting protective layer on the skin instead – if we don’t wash it off when going into the water. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide belong to this category. Their disadvantage is that the white protective layer they form doesn’t look good and it leaves a stain on our clothes. As for chemical sun protection components, they permeate the skin and absorb sunshine there, in a way that they also decompose in the process, which means that their effect lasts shorter; what is more, the products of decomposition often have unknown effects on the human body – in the form of an allergic reaction or inflammation. This is the reason why we mustn’t use other cosmetic products when sunbathing, because sunshine causes them to decompose and the products of this process can have unexpected effects on the body.    


Unnecessary and important components in suntan lotions

Our skin must work hard every time we are getting a tan, so during and after sunbathing we must provide it with materials that can regenerate it. Anti-inflammatory and moisturising extracts derived from plants, and antioxidant vitamins can be important components of sun protection creams, in addition to the sun protection components. Materials like this include vitamin E, shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, volatile oil extracted from lavender and aloe vera. The following materials seem to be unnecessary suntan lotion components, still they can often be found in sunscreen products: preservatives, emulsifiers and fragrances. The problem with these is that they only make the cream’s texture better, but from a sun protection perspective they are useless.      


1) Sun protection must be used at the swimming pool. Always buy a sun protection cream with an SPF number that matches your skin type.

2) Don’t believe that the suntan lotion can always protect you from getting burnt. Practice moderation when sunbathing, even when you are using a sunscreen with a high SPF number.

3) Always put high SPF suntan lotion on the skin of little children. Never expose them to strong sunlight!

4) Choose a sun protection cream with a broad spectrum, one that contains no or only a small quantity of fragrances and preservatives, is waterproof, has physical sun protection components, antioxidant vitamins and plant-derived skin care extracts.