Sun protection: important tips for the skin

Summer, sun, beach: this is what UV protection is all about - how sun lotion protects against sunburn, how long the sun protection factor works and how you apply the creams correctly

Sun protection is not just sun protection. The shelves in pharmacies and drugstores are full of different products. There are offers in different consistencies, make-up with UV protection, and special products for children. In order to find the right preparation, the condition of the skin and the skin type play a role. Here you will find tips so that you can safely enjoy the warm rays.

The right consistency

Which product is good for me? An overview:

  • Cream: "Here you have the highest fat content," says Stefanie Nickelsen, pharmacist in Bremen. In their experience, customers with dry skin therefore value this variant.
  • Lotion: it contains less fat and more water than a cream. It is more fluid and easier to apply.
  • Gel: It works without fats and emulsifiers. It is therefore suitable for combination skin and those with sun intolerance such as polymorphic light dermatosis or Mallorca acne.
  • Spray: Light sprays are particularly popular with men: "They can be easily spread on hairy skin, are quickly absorbed and do not shine," says Nickelsen. Sprays are also great for protecting the scalp. But be careful: do not apply too thinly!

Mineral or chemical?

Chemical filters convert UV rays into heat, while mineral ones reflect them. "Both work very well," says Nickelsen.

There is still criticism. Chemical filters are assumed to have a hormonal effect, mineral filters the size of nanoparticles can supposedly get into the organism.

The pharmacist recommends conventional mineral products to customers who want to be on the safe side. "The titanium or zinc oxide filters in it are larger, so they are definitely not absorbed by the body."

The factor is crucial

In the past, people were satisfied with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 10. The times are over. Today: a high SPF is better.

  • 6 - 20: You will look in vain for products with a sun protection factor of less than 20 at Stefanie Nickelsen. "We have removed them from our range because we cannot recommend them with a clear conscience."
  • 30: It should be at least that high. The specified protective performance is actually never achieved anyway. "That doesn't work because nobody applies the cream thick enough," says Rüdiger Jaik, pharmacist and colleague from Nickelsen.
  • 50: This SPF is especially advisable for people with fair skin. Their self-protection time is short.

What does the sun protection factor (SPF) mean?

"The SPF indicates how much longer you can expose yourself to the sun without getting sunburn than would be possible without sunscreen," explains Stelljes.

An example: You have very light skin and therefore belong to the group with the most sensitive skin type 1.Your skin's self-protection time is around ten minutes. If you apply SPF 20, you could theoretically be in the sun for 200 minutes (10 minutes x 20) without getting burned.

But be careful: "The full sun protection factor stated on the sun cream is rarely achieved because the required amount of sun cream is actually only rarely applied. We therefore recommend that you only use up to 60 percent of this theoretical maximum time," warns Stelljes. In the example above, this means: 60 percent of 200 minutes = 120 minutes.

Our video shows what you should know about sun protection creams:

How to use creams: This is how it works with application

"Customers often ask about the order," says Jaik. Anyone who uses anti-aging serums or medical preparations: First comes the active ingredient preparation. Once it has been pulled in, the UV protection can follow about half an hour later.

The only exception to this rule are mosquito repellants. It is best to apply a fragrance-free UV preparation and allow it to take effect. Only then use the mosquito repellent.

Don't be too frugal. Experts recommend a strand of cream that is as long as the whole hand - for every part of the body.

Apply protection with chemical filter half an hour before sun exposure. Don't forget to apply cream after swimming!

Apply cream everywhere, including the edges of your swimwear. Feet, ears and the back of the arms are often forgotten.

Cosmetics and protection

It doesn't have to be a UV protection spray with SPF 50 in every situation. Cosmetic variants can be easily integrated into everyday life:

  • Care plus: "Today there are many all-in-one products which, in addition to UV filters, also contain anti-aging ingredients such as hyaluronic acid," reports Nickelsen. Especially when you sit in the office for most of the day, it is enough to use such an all-rounder in the morning as a day care product.
  • Make-up: Sometimes such an all-in-one product can also replace the foundation. Nickelsen: "There has been very effective, compact sunscreen make-up for a number of years." Thanks to special pigments, they even blend in with the skin tone. "You don't have to search long for the best color, the result always looks beautifully natural," says the pharmacist.

Carrots as protection from the inside

Tablets with plant pigments such as carotene can increase the skin's self-protection a little if you give them the necessary time. Anyone who starts taking 25 to 50 milligrams of beta-carotene daily at least 28 days before a beach vacation will achieve basic protection. "Carotenoids accumulate in the skin and eyes and intercept UV-B rays," explains Jaik. This measure is particularly suitable for people with very sensitive skin.

Additional protection to sunscreen

  • Shade: It is best not to stay outdoors between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in summer - or seek shade.
  • Fabric: Clothes should be tight-knit and dark. A thin white T-shirt allows 40 percent of the UV radiation to reach the skin.
  • Special clothing: Purchasing certified UV protective clothing can be worthwhile, especially for outdoor athletes.
  • Hat and glasses: It is often difficult to apply cream to the scalp and not to apply cream to the eyes. Hats and sunglasses provide protection.

Vitamin D deficiency through sun protection?

When UV light shines on the skin, the body begins to produce vitamin D. This begs the question: Does sun protection promote a vitamin D deficiency?

"No," emphasizes the dermatologist Professor Eckhard Breitbart. If a deficiency is clinically proven, he recommends maintaining UV protection and taking the vitamin orally. "We have tablets for vitamin D deficiency, but not for skin cancer."


Different rules for sun protection apply to children than to adults:

  • Stay in the shade: Children's skin is thinner and less able to defend itself against sun damage. "In the first year of life, children shouldn't be exposed to direct sun", emphasizes pharmacist Rüdiger Jaik.
  • Then 50+: "From the age of two, we recommend light-protective clothing and 50+ preparations with mineral filters," says Jaik. Any discussion about the safety of filters pales in view of the danger posed by UV light. "It is believed that three severe sunburns in childhood increase the lifelong risk of skin cancer by a factor of three to four."