You have heard about SPF and most likely know the usual “the higher the number the better”. But what exactly does this mean?
The other day, I was having an argument with my sister about what exactly the SPF index means and how we should use sunscreen accordingly. It turns out that many people look for the SPF index on the label but that’s about it.
I asked a few of my friends and they also didn’t know anything else besides “the higher the number the better”.
After doing my research here is my post; where I explain what the SPF index is and why you should know about it.
One very important thing to remember is that everybody is different and skin color, hormones, and sensitivity play a huge role for every individual’s skin and it’s sensitivity.
Why is this important?
The harmful sun rays do not affect everybody the same way! For example, I have sensitive skin and get rashes, eczema, and burns frequently. I have a whole post explaining what you need to know about sensitive skin where you can check some tips.
What this means is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to SPF index. Now let me explain why.
What is SPF value?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which measures the protection of the UVB on the skin. The numbers you see on the label signify the product’s ability to block, absorb, or reflect the radiation from the “burn rays”(UVB). In other words, the protection the sunscreen provides before you begin to burn.
Even if you do not burn from the sun UVR you still need sunscreen because you are not immune to the radiation, unless you live in a cave😊. Dark-skinned people are also vulnerable to UV rays.
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Another way to look at this:
SPF 15 means that 1/15 of the radiation will reach the skin. If you want to determine how long it will take you to get burned you need to know your skin sensitivity and multiply it by the SPF value.
For example, if you take 10 min of sun exposure without sunscreen to get burned and you apply SPF15 that means you get 150min of protection (10min x SPF15=150min).
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What does this mean for you?
If your skin is sensitive like mine or you are too pale then the same time does not apply for you. It is very important to remember that everybody’s skin is different, those calculations are based on the average person. You should always see what works best for your skin according to your needs.
Most people assume that SPF 30 has double the protection but this simply is not true due to the small margin of difference between SPF 15, SPF 30, and SPF 50.
- SPF 15 filters out 93% of the UVB rays
- SPF 30 filters out 95% of the UVB rays
- SPF 50 filters out 98% of the UVB rays
⚠ No sunscreen protects you 100%.
As you can see the difference is surprisingly small.
Remember that sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours regardless of SPF value. If you sweat or get in the water then you should apply more frequently.
One trick I have found that works for me is as soon as I feel my skin dry and dehydrated I apply. This usually happens after 1 hour and 30 min of exposure.
The SPF is an imperfect measure since it only provides a % of protection from the UVB rays. It does not protect you from the so-called aging ultraviolet type A rays, which are more dangerous and cause premature skin aging and in some cases skin cancer.
In order, to get protection from both UVA and UVB rays you need a broad-spectrum sunscreen.In order, to get protection from both UVA and UVB rays you need a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Click To Tweet
The FDA recommends using a broad spectrum SPF 15 or higher.
- SPF value does not work the same for everyone.
- The higher the value the better.
- Regardless of the SPF index apply every 2-3 hours.
- Always look for BROAD-SPECTRUM SPF(#) on the label.
Stay safe in the sun and apply sunscreen!
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I am a life long-learner with multiple interests and passions. Due to being an over thinker, I tend to research and explore any topic to the fullest and share this research with all my readers. All tips and knowledge shared are from years of personal and professional experience. Check my About page for more info.