Get the most out of your sunscreen and raise your sun-smarts to the next level with these essential sunscreen facts and pro tips.
What Does SPF Stand For?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The sun protection factor specifically indicates protection against the Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that cause sunburn. Specific tests measure the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure it takes to cause sunburn when a person uses a sunscreen formula in comparison to how much UV exposure it takes to cause sunburn when they do not use a sunscreen. The product is then assigned an SPF value indicating the amount of sunburn protection provided by the product.
What Does the Number Value of SPF Indicate?
As stated above, the SPF number assigned to a sunscreen formula represents how much more exposure it would take to cause a burn under sun exposure when using the sunscreen versus not using sun protection. In more practical terms, it can be thought of as a timing measurement of how much longer an individual should be able to be in the sun before burning. For example: if a person would typically burn in direct sun after 15 minutes with no sun protection, then a sunscreen with SPF 30 should protect the skin up to 30 times longer (15 x 30 = 450 minutes or 7.5 hours). If another person would normally burn after 10 minutes without protection, that same SPF30 would protect the second individual for 300 minutes or 5 hours (10 x 30 = 300 minutes or 5 hours).
These numbers to do not represent the time between applications. Instead, they represent the maximum amount of protection offered, assuming proper application, as well as regular reapplication of sunscreen according to the instructions on the sunscreen label. There are additional factors that would require reapplication more often, such as humidity, sweating, and swimming.
It is important to remember that although an SPF rating is a useful number, the realities of real-world application and exposure may not match the ideal laboratory settings that established the rating. It is also important to note that the act of reapplying does not restart the clock and provide additional hours of sun protection. Sunscreen reapplication is simply to replace what has worn off by rubbing, sweat and water activities.
It is best practice to always read the sunscreen facts and follow the specific product label instructions on your sunscreen product for the most optimal protection.
What is Broad-Spectrum?
Broad-spectrum is a term that indicates that a sunscreen protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays. In order for a sunscreen to be labeled broad-spectrum, it must undergo specialty testing to prove its ability to protect the skin. The broad-spectrum test measures a product’s UVA protection relative to its UVB protection, as well as the combined amount of overall protection. Sunscreens that pass this test may then be labeled as Broad-Spectrum SPF.
The Importance of Sunscreen & Sun Protection
UVA and UVB rays from the sun play a significant role in the formation of visible signs of aging, as well as the formation of most skin cancers. Daily use of sunscreen is the most crucial step in protecting your skin from the sun and these detrimental effects.
Other ways to protect against sun exposure are the use of sunglasses, hats, and UV-protective clothing, and seeking shade during peak hours of the sun.
Have a question about sunscreen and sun protection? Let us know your sunscreen or sun protection questions and any further tips you would like to learn.