Style file: Slip, slop, slap on the sunscreen

If you thought the summer was all about fun in the sun, think again. Getting your SPF protection right is a serious business, says Lee Holmes

It’s not widely known that the Australian film director Baz Luhrmann, of Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet fame, is also a talented singer/songwriter. His 1999 single “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” was a UK number one and offered snippets of advice: you should dance, travel, floss, stretch and – with the wisest counsel found in the title itself – wear sunscreen.

But taking such guidance to heart isn’t just a case of buying any old lotion or potion and slapping it on to your body with abandon. Remember that the sun is in essence a nuclear reactor, bombarding us with harmful ultra-violet rays – and that not all sunscreens are created equal.

You should always opt for a product that is recognised as “broad spectrum”, as this will protect against the dreaded UVA and UVB rays.

And what about the all-important sun protection factor? A common misconception is that an SPF of 30 is actually twice as strong as an SPF of 15. It isn’t. Yes, the higher factor will block more damaging rays, but all sunscreens are only effective for the same length of time, so reapply often, usually every couple of hours. And unless you’re looking for a total sunblock, an SPF of 50 is as high as you need to go. 


Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the even application of sunscreen is possibly one of the greatest skills that a man can ever acquire.

Perfectly applied sun protection – don’t forget those ears – ensures safe tanning. And dry oil sprays rather than creams are easier to apply – and less of a social faux pas – if you’re on the hirsute side, because nobody wants to sunbathe next to a hot, greasy mess.