Q&A with Dr Tabi Leslie about sun protection


Dr LeslieSuncare specialists Garnier Ambre Solaire and Dr Tabi Leslie joined us in May 2012 to answer your questions on sun protection and sun safe behaviour.

Dr Leslie studied medicine at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, University of London, and with her extensive experience as a dermatologist was able to tackle a range of questions from choosing lotion with the right SPF to the benefits of make-up products that contain UVA protection.

Children | Moles | General questions



Q. Thejoyfulpuddlejumper: Is even a light tan a sign of skin damage? Should I be smothering my toddler in factor 50 so that she always stays pale, or can I let her get a bit of colour? At the moment I only put sunscreen on her if we're going out in the sun for more than half an hour.

GarnierA. Dr Leslie: Most experts consider that when your skin tans it is a sign that your skin is damaged and is trying to protect itself from the sun's harmful rays. While some people may want their skin to have some degree of a tan it is essential to be aware of the risks of sun exposure and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. It is especially important to avoid sunburn.

It's always best to keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight and if outside, to keep them covered up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses. Choose a sun protection suitable for your and your child's skin type.

For children I recommend using at least SPF 30 and avoiding sun exposure at peak times (usually 11am-3pm). Also make sure that you reapply sunscreen frequently and generously to maintain protection and remember to reapply after swimming, perspiring or towelling.  

Q. Caffinequeen: Are organic sunscreens really as effective as non-organic ones? Also what level of sun protection should children have for a normal sunny day in the UK: is factor 20 enough or should it be higher?

A. Dr Leslie: There are two different types of UV filters: organic filters which work by absorbing UV light, and mineral or inorganic filters, such as titanium dioxide, which reflect and scatter UV light. Both types are effective and frequently used in combination for optimum protection.

For children, I would recommend applying at least an SPF 30, but the final choice will also depend on your child's skin type, where they are geographically and what activities they are doing. 

Q. Claireinmoderna: What's the best sun protection for babies under one? We live in a Mediterranean country, it's very hot in the summer and some exposure is inevitable. Are there specific products for under ones, or anything to look out for?

A. Dr Leslie: Ambre Solaire Kids products are suitable for use on babies. As you live in the Mediterranean I would use the highest protection product, SPF 50+. Also make sure that you reapply the sunscreen frequently and generously to maintain protection.  

Q. Ovariantryst: Like most schools, my children's primary will not apply sunscreen to pupils. Are once-a-day high-factor sunscreens likely to protect them from 9-3pm if applied in the morning before school?

A. Dr Leslie: I recommend applying some sun protection to your children before school and then giving them a product to take to school to reapply before going outside during school breaks.

Q. Blackeyedsusan: How can we encourage schools to be more proactive with sun protection? My daughter's school has no areas of shade in the playground and they do not encourage children to apply their own suncream.

"Encourage children to wear wide brimmed hats and sunglasses when they're outside playing. You may also want to pack your kids with a high protection lotion and teach them to apply and reapply throughout the day themselves."

A. Dr Leslie: While individual schools may have different policies, the best advice is for you to take as many measures as you can to help protect your child in the sun. Encourage them to practise sun safe behaviour from a young age. Think about clothing, encourage them to wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when they're outside playing. You may also want to pack your kids with a high-protection lotion and teach them to apply and reapply throughout the day themselves.

Q. Bongobec: What suncream should I be using on a two year old with eczema?

A. Dr Leslie: As eczema can be triggered and aggravated by many different factors, it would be worthwhile discussing sun protection with your GP or dermatologist. 

Q. Onelittlebabyterror: My daughter is half-Chinese and is darker than white children. Is the advice to apply suncream different for children with darker complexions? Is it OK for them to develop a tan if they don't burn?

A. Dr Leslie: The advice when applying sun protection is the same for all children. I recommend for pre-school kids, at least four teaspoons and for school kids, at least five teaspoons. It is recommended that this minimum amount is applied frequently to maintain protection.

Q. Thedoctorswife46: My mum recently criticised me for reapplying sunscreen on my toddler exclaiming 'she's not even burning yet!' What are the consequences/long term damage if I had actually waited until she was burning?

A. Dr Leslie: There is an abundance of evidence that confirms that it is important to protect our skin from sun-induced skin damage, especially burning, as well as to protect against premature skin ageing. You are doing the right thing. It is important to adopt safe sun habits from a young age. 



Q. Strandednomore: I lived in very hot countries as a child and then spent a lot of time in tropical countries where I regularly used only face creams with SPF as protection. I am not fair but I do have lots of moles. Should I be having regular checks, even if I don't notice any major changes to any moles?

A. Dr Leslie: I recommend you make an appointment with your GP and then decide with the GP if you need annual checks with them or with a dermatologist.

Q. Reshapewhiledamp: My husband is quite 'moley' and has a very dark mole next to his nipple, 5mm across. Should he be taking it to a GP?

A. Dr Leslie: I recommend that he makes an appointment with his GP who should be able to advise him accordingly.

Q. All4u: My husband's father had a small squamous cell carcinoma on his ear. It took three months to remove it by which time it was too late and he died of septicaemia weeks later. Now my husband has just had a basal cell carcinoma removed from his nose. Is there anything I can do to protect our children in case they are susceptible?

A. Dr Leslie: If people only knew how horrible it was to die of skin cancer and how quickly they need to get treatment if they see anything (very easy and cheap treatment, too) they would be much more careful. It is always best to consult your GP on this matter who should be able to advise you and help answer your questions.

General questions

Q. Sotiredofwheelsonthebus: If you wear various products with different SPFs, what level of protection do you have? For example, if your daily moisturiser has an SPF of 15 and your foundation is 25, are you protected to 15 or 30?

Also, sun creams have UVA and UVB protection (so they say on the label). If make-up says it has an SPF, is that UVA or UVB, or both?

A. Dr Leslie: It really depends on the products but in general, whatever the combination of products used, it is unlikely that your skin will be protected any more than the one with the higher SPF. It is more likely to be somewhere between the two different SPFs. 

"SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of protection against burning, which is mainly caused by UVB rays. If a sun protection products provides UVA protection, there will be a UVA logo on the label."

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of protection against burning, which is mainly caused by UVB rays. If a sun protection product provides UVA protection, there will be a UVA logo on the label. This logo confirms that a product complies with the European Recommendation for UVA protection. If a make-up product provides UVA protection, it will say so on the label, for example "Protects against UVA and UVB rays" or "Contains UVA protection".  

Q. Pelicano: If I use a year-old opened bottle of sunscreen, will it have the same protection factor?

A. Dr Leslie: We suggest that you use most Garnier Ambre Solaire products within 12 months of purchase. During that time products should be stored in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight. 

On cosmetic products, including sun protection, you will find information about the length of time after opening which the product can be used. The information is provided on the product label, in a symbol that looks like an open jar. Under or within the open jar is the information about the number of months after opening the bottle the product must be used, for example 12M is 12 months. Most Garnier Ambre Solaire products have a 'period after opening' (PAO) of either 12 months or 18 months. 

Q. Lashingsofbingeinghere: My GP says vitamin D deficiency is now a very real problem in the UK. Would you say everyone needs some unprotected exposure to the sun in order to build up their vitamin D stores? Or do you think total protection from the sun is the ideal and we should take vitamin D supplements to compensate?

"Vitamin D is essential for good health, in particular to maintain healthy bones. Most people have sufficient exposure to the sun in their day-to-day lives to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D and it is not necessary to seek extra sun exposure."

A. Dr Leslie: Vitamin D is essential for good health, in particular to maintain healthy bones. Most people have sufficient exposure to the sun in their day-to-day lives to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D and it is not necessary to seek extra sun exposure.

It is possible to source vitamin D through the diet by eating foods rich in the vitamin such as eggs, oily fish, fish liver oils and some fortified cereals. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that vitamin D should be obtained from a healthy diet or vitamin D supplements rather than unprotected exposure to UV radiation. It is still possible to get all the vitamin D you need by acting sensibly in the sun and using sunscreens.

Q. Hellonheels: I get terrible itchy and rash-y skin from using sun lotions. Antihistamines don't really calm it. Are there any sun lotions less likely to irritate my skin?

A. Dr Leslie: I would recommend that you consult your GP who may be able to help you determine what is triggering these reactions. It may be a reaction to heat and UV light. I would also recommend our 'Sensitive' range of sun protection products and to use one of the products with the highest sun protection factor, SPF 50+.

Q. Cocobongo: A lot of moisturisers are now sold with SPF. Is the amount you find in moisturiser likely to be sufficient to get the appropriate coverage? Also, how long does the coverage last?

A. Dr Leslie: Daily moisturisers are designed to help protect your skin as you go about your everyday activities, such as going to and from work, but not for prolonged periods of sun exposure. If you are going to be exposed to the sun for longer periods of time, you should use a sun protection product suitable for your skin type and reapply frequently and generously.

Q. Supernannyisace: I have seen a few articles recently which suggest that using sun protection lotions can increase the risk of skin cancers. One reasoning is that the oxybenzone damages the DNA of the skin cells leading to photo sensitivity. Do your suncreams contain these ingredients? What is your response to these claims?

A. Dr Leslie: Sun protection products are rigorously tested and have to comply with strict European safety laws. I'd like to reassure you that people can use them with confidence. 

Last updated: 7 months ago