“Do I really need to wear SPF on my face if I wear a hat in the sun?”

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Chloe Burcham
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wearing hat in the sun

We all know that we should be wearing SPF every day but do you actually still need to wear sun protection if you’re wearing a hat? Skin experts reveal the truth…

The temperatures are soaring and the sun is finally out. Which means (especially if you’re a skincare enthusiast) chances are you’ll already have your SPF50 at the ready. After all, SPF is one of the best ways you can not only protect against harmful UV rays but it’s one of the easiest ways to keep your skin from prematurely ageing. But what about if you’re wearing a hat (or *insert other item of clothing here*) – do you really need to wear SPF at the same time?

It’s a question that has been flying around the Stylist office recently and so we thought we’d put it to the experts. Below dermatologist Dr Beibei du Harpur and Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme explain why a layered view of sun protection is best – plus, how much suncream we really need to apply, when to reapply SPF and whether or not everyone really needs to wear SPF all year round. 

Why is wearing SPF important?

While many of us know the importance of wearing SPF on the daily, let’s go back to basics for a minute. SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’ – the number following represents how many more times skin will be able to stay the sun before it burns. For example, if you were wearing SPF15 you would would be protected for 15-times longer than if you weren’t wearing anything (which is usually around 20 minutes).

Not only does sunscreen protect against sun burn (caused by damaging UVB rays) these days most SPFs are developed to protect against harmful UVA rays too. These dual-protection formulas are labelled as ‘broad spectrum.’ While UVA rays penetrate much deeper into the skin and cause skin ageing, both rays are dangerous when it comes to skin cancer – so it’s important you’re protected against both types.

“It’s a total misconception that people with darker skin tones don’t need to wear sun protection,” explains Dr Ejikeme. “Darker skin tones are not immune to the damaging effects of the sun. Sheer or blended formulas will help you avoid any of the chalkiness that some physical sunscreens can have.”

How often should you reapply SPF?

“The recommended amount of sunscreen per application is the length of two fingers for your entire face and eyelids. Don’t forget your eyelids, neck and ears too as a lot of people overlook these areas,” says Dr Ejikeme. Sunscreen should be reapplied as per the instructions on the bottle. Some are more long-lasting or water resistant than others but as a recommendation you should aim to reapply every two hours and after any swimming or towelling down as this will likely remove the sunscreen filters from your skin.

“Sunscreen doesn’t provide 100% protection and you should still take precautions in your sun exposure even if you are wearing a good quality sunscreen,” says Dr Ejikeme. 

Do you still have to wear SPF if you’re wearing a hat?

So you’ve applied your two fingers of suncream and waited before stepping out into the sun. But what about if you’re wearing a hat? Can you forgo the SPF top-ups if you simply choose to cover up instead? Unfortunately, the answer is no. 

“Although hats can be very helpful for sun protection, many sun hats only partially shade your face and neck,” explains Dr Beibei du Harpur. “Hats are great for protecting the scalp and I would always recommend wearing a hat when out and about if possible and definitely if you are out for prolonged periods of time.”

“Ideally, it is best to seek shade, wear a hat and apply sunscreen. The most important thing is to avoid prolonged exposure to the danger (the UV rays).”

Best SPFs for broad spectrum protection

Main image: Getty


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Chloe Burcham