Sun Protection: The Ultimate Guide To SPF

sun and ocean

Yes, we should all be wearing a minimum of SPF 15 every day, regardless of the weather, but a lot of us only really start considering sun protection around this time of the year. Whether you always leave it until the last minute and make a last minute dash in duty-free or you prefer to take time to consider your options, here is a straightforward guide to provide you with all the information you need to make the right selection.

Should you opt for chemical or physical protection?

Chemical SPF absorbs harmful UV rays to prevent them from damaging your skin, while physical or mineral sun protection creates a veil to deflect them. A lot of skin experts advocate physical formula, which contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, because they tend to be less irritating than chemical ones. However, some physical sun creams can leave a chalky, ashy finish. For the most part, it’s a matter of preference and unless you have sensitive skin, you can use either.  

Is factor 50 worth it?

It’s often assumed that the higher the factor the better the SPF. In reality, factor 50 only gives you one-to-two percent more protection than 30. While SPF 50 blocks around 98 percent of harmful rays, SPF 30 shields 97 percent. What is more important is looking for the term ‘broad spectrum’ as this will ensure both UVA (these cause premature ageing) and UVB (these cause your skin to burn) rays are blocked. 

How often should you apply sun cream?

The biggest issue with sun cream is how we apply it. You could have the highest, strongest factor on, but if it’s not used correctly it won’t give you enough protection. Most of us don’t apply enough and don’t top it up as much as we should throughout the day. The general rule of thumb is you need eight teaspoons of sun cream to cover your body from head-to-toe. It should be applied 15 minutes before you head out into the sun and it should have fully absorbed before you get dressed. 

If you’re on the beach or outside, you need to reapply every two hours, or after swimming. Be aware that sweating and lying on the sand or a towel can also wipe off your sun cream.

Can you use one formula from head-to-toe?

A good broad spectrum SPF will protect your face as effectively as your arms and legs. However, it is worth investing in a specific facial formula if you want a lighter, non-greasy texture with similar hydrating and nourishing benefits to your moisturiser.

So, what are the SPFs we recommend?

Coola is the new kid-on-the-block that everyone is talking about. The lightweight, eco-friendly formulas are like nothing you have tried before. The range offers both physical and chemical protection, as well as lotions and sprays with scented and fragrance-free options. The standout formula is the Eco-Luxe Body Spray SPF 30, £36, because it makes reapplication to quick and effortless. 

If you have sensitive or problem skin and want a specific formula for your face, look to iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50 Translucent, £32. It is a mineral SPF, but the titanium dioxide is transparent and the zinc oxide is micronised, so you don’t have to worry about it leaving a chalky, ashy finish.

Whichever formula you decide to invest in, just remember to look for broad spectrum coverage and to regularly reapply.

Kate Spade’s Death Is A Lesson In The Price Of Illusion

yellow handbag

I was standing in the immigration queue at JFK when the news of Kate Spade’s suicide flashed on the TV screens in the hall there. It was all the more shocking because, even if you don’t believe in that ultimately empty trope about having it all, Spade, one of the fashion industry’s more discreet, more down-to-earth individuals, really did seem to have a lot: husband (and business partner) she’d been married to for 24 years, a longed-for child, one business empire already behind her- she cashed out approximately $94 million from Kate Spade- and a nascent label, Frances Valentine, named for her daughter, which she launched in 2015.

At 55 she seemed in her prime.

They’re quite brutal about news delivery in the US. It’s infotainment red in tooth and claw. Snatches of the suicide note she left to her 13 year old daughter Frances Beatrix Spade (“This has nothing to do with you. Don’t feel guilty. Ask your dad”), footage of her body being carried out of the Manhattan apartment block where the Spades lived, complete with selfie-snapping onlookers….all in ad-friendly bite sizes.

Waiting for the passport stamp, I looked up an interview I did with Kate in 2003, parsing it for any clues of the darkness to come. Ghost seeking.

When we met she was delightfully upbeat and strikingly approachable, although for someone who was cheerleading the world into its first steps towards wearing colour after a decade of monochrome, she wore an awful lot of black. When I asked her the question that all women asked (how to incorporate colour into your life), she sweetly suggested a big coloured ring. “Because for a lot of people, colour’s quite scary. You have to take it slowly.” Was this some kind of prophetic metaphor?

Flashbacks to Alexander McQueen’s suicide- in 2010 he too hanged himself – and L’Wren Scott’s suicide in 2014 are inevitable. What about John Galliano’s crazy apparently alchohol-fuelled and self-destructive anti-semitic rant in 2011? Or Claude Montana’s tormented and tormenting relationship with his wife and muse Wallis Franken Montana, which ended when she killed herself in 1996 – a scandal from which his reputation never recovered. And who can forget the tragic early death of fashion stylist Isabella Blow in 2007 after suffering from depression for years and becoming concerned about her career waning?

The journalist Michael Gross famously described the fashion industry as a place filled with beautiful people and ugly deeds. By their private and often suppressed nature, it’s impossible to say whether depression and despair are any more rife in fashion than in other industries. One of the desperately sad aspects to emerge from this latest tragedy was Kate’s sister Reta Saffo saying that the designer’s death was not unexpected and that the pressure of having a famous brand may have both caused her bipolar disorder and also stopped her from getting treatment. “We’d get so close to packing her bags, but in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out,” she told the Kansas City Star.

Yes, the pressures of fashion are immense and public – but that’s also true if you’re a surgeon, a politician or a single parent holding down three jobs. It’s also true that the relentless fixation on surface means there’s an inherent unwillingness to grapple with deeper truths.

The disconnect between being a glazed style plate and the messy reality of being human, add to the weight, sometimes to an unbearable degree. Maintaining a glaze of perfection at all times becomes as much as part of the job as anything else.

Let’s not forget the self-reinvention that is one of fashion’s immutable rules for career advancement. Whether it’s enhancing one’s early childhood to make it seem more aristocratic (a favourite among older-school designers) or emphasising gritty episodes to flesh out a street-cred image, designers especially, often feel they need a dramatic back-story to attract interest and many end up feeling trapped by the contradictions.

André Leon Talley, the cape-wearing, larger than life eminence who for decades abseiled the heights of Mount Fashion as an editor-at-large on American Vogue, last month railed to The New York Times about the way fashion doesn’t care for its people.

Reaction to his comments were mixed, but he certainly encapsulated a tension that whilst not unique in fashion, can be toxic: that of needing to look glossy, successful (read rich) and connected, even when you’re lonely and isolated in a hotel room on peripatetic schedule that would defeat most nomads.

For the most eloquent disquisition on isolation and superficiality, read Joan Juliet Buck’s recent autobiography. Buck, once a mink-and-Cartier-swathed editor-in-chief on French Vogue (and also Von Ackermann’s one time boss – the two did not get on), was eventually “let go” amidst rumours of a number of personal problems. Buck is notably hazy on the details but searingly lucid on how in-thrall she was to the outward trappings of a successful fashion career. The title of her book, The Price of Illusion, says it all.

Interestingly, it has been mooted that Spade may have had financial worries. The same was said of L’Wren Scott, a state of affairs which if true, would have been all the more worrying to Scott whose brand was all about expensive aspiration.

But even rooting a label in a Gothic sensibility, as Lee McQueen did, is no inoculation against external expectations. Those death-obsessed, poetically dark shows of his might have been cathartic, but in the end he still yielded to the demands of being McQueen.

Kate Spade’s business and persona were predicated on a sunny, upbeat quintessentially American interpretation of chic. As the tributes on social media and the floral offerings laid outside the 200-plus Kate Spade stores across the world suggest, her playful but ultimately pragmatic aesthetic touched millions of women. Her death, however, is a reminder that outward glamour is, by definition, a chimera. We should all, in an age of endless self-branding, be wary of the price of illusion.

These Supplements Could Make You Live Longer


It’s rare for a week to go by without probiotics hitting the headlines. Over the past few years they have been championed for boosting the levels of good bacteria in your gut. And, a well-balanced, healthy gut as been linked to a stronger immune system, higher energy levels and better skin. More recently, a study has gone one step further and suggested that combining probiotics and an Indian herb could help you help you live longer.

Yes, you read that correctly. A study, published in Scientific Reports, found that when fruit flies were given a blend of probiotics and triphala they lived for up to 66 days rather than the usual 26 – a 154 percent life extension. Before the cynics complain that humans are very different to a mere fruit fly, professor of biomedical engineering at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and senior author of the study, Satya Prakash told Science Daily, ‘The fruit fly is remarkably similar to mammals with about 70 percent similarity in terms of their biochemical pathways, making it a good indicator of what would happen in humans.’

Admittedly, it is likely that the results would be less spectacular in humans, but Prakash is adamant, ‘A diet specifically incorporating triphala along with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life.’

So, what is triphala?

A blend of three fruits (amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki), triphala has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It’s often referred to as ‘tummy tonic’ and is used for constipation. It is good at alleviating stubborn constipation and detoxifying your body. Last year, a study described triphala as key for, ‘efficient digestion, absorption, elimination, and rejuvenation’. You might not have come across them previously, but triphala supplements are available – Pukka Herbs Wholistic Triphala, £15.45, is a good place to start. 

What about probiotics?

It’s generally considered that most people would benefit from taking a good quality probiotic supplement, as a lot of us don’t eat enough fibre or fermented foods to get sufficient amounts of good bacteria. Whether you want to drink or swallow your bacteria, there is a supplement to suit your needs. Shabir regularly recommends Mega Probiotic ND, £19.50, by Food Science of Vermont, because the supplement contains eight strains of the most researched beneficial bacteria and is a very good all-rounder.

How to find the right probiotic for you

There are hundreds of different probiotic supplements available and it can be incredibly confusing. If you’re looking for something more targeted, it’s worth taking the time to read Shabir’s piece on What Can’t Probiotics Do, which outlines the best probiotic depending on your concern.

While a brand is yet to create the winning combination of probiotic and triphala in one capsule, at least we can introduce both into our routine and who knows, we might live until we’re 100.

The Scene

blue fan on wooden desk

A crowded restaurant on a warm evening. The problem: my menopausal friends getting hot and bothered. The solution: FanU, a phone-sized, lightweight portable cool air fan, which Gill Sinclair, joint founder of Victoria Health, pulled triumphantly from her handbag. It’s a must for anyone with hot flushes, due to hormones or chemotherapy, or simply because it’s hot outside (here’s hoping). With a USB and rechargeable battery, £9.99, in white or pink. Read More…

Do You Have Highly Functioning Anxiety?


At one point or another all of us have experienced stress and anxiety. In fact, according to recent headlines 82 percent of us feel stressed or anxious at least once during the working week. Would you regard yourself as having highly functioning anxiety though? While it’s not medically recognised, the term is becoming increasingly common. Read More…

Boost Your Mood With Herbal Heroes

holy basil

Q: I would like to find an all-round natural supplement. A friend mentioned she takes an adaptogen: what are they, and how do I choose one for my over-busy lifestyle?

A: I’ve always liked the concept that adaptogens – natural substances that improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress, both physical and mental– go where they are needed at the time, acting on multiple parts of the body to strengthen weakness and bring balance.

According to medical herbalist Katie Pande: ‘Adaptogenic herbs are said to have a normalising effect on the body and mind, reducing the negative changes that can happen in your body in response to stress.’ Read More…