What Sunscreen SPF Levels Mean & Which One You Need
Sunscreen is your friend. We repeat: sunscreen is your friend! Whether you’re a tanning enthusiast or dread the reapplication process, learning to love sunscreen is a difficult (but worthwhile) task. Plus, choosing a formula that’s right for you can be difficult. From sunscreen SPF levels to the degree of water resistance, there is a lot to consider.
Luckily, the answers are built into the product!
Understanding Sunscreen SPF Levels
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number that accompanies it describes how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden skin when wearing sunscreen compared to the amount of time if you didn’t use it. So, when using an SPF 30 product, it would take 30 times longer to burn than if you used no sunscreen at all.
Of course, this is only true when the product is used as directed.
How to use sunscreen properly
You should apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to heading outdoors, then again every two hours (or immediately after swimming or sweating). All exposed skin should be covered. With each application, it typically takes about 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover the entire body.
Apply sunscreen even when it’s cloudy! Up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation still reaches the earth when it’s overcast.
Choosing a sunscreen product
The Skin Cancer Foundation makes it easy to choose a sunscreen – they recommend using whatever product (SPF 15 or higher!) you are most likely to use. The more you like your sunscreen, the more consistently you’ll use it.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for choosing a sunscreen:
- Look for broad-spectrum – this protects skin from both UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays cause sunburn, while UVA rays cause tanning and premature aging. The dangers of both are well-known and a broad-spectrum sunscreen product is a must to properly protect your skin!
- Wear sunscreen SPF levels of 15 or higher – SPF 15 is great for everyday use and occasional sun exposure. You can often find skin lotions or cosmetic products that provide this level of protection. If you will be spending more than a couple of hours outside, an SPF level of 30 or higher is recommended. This sunscreen SPF level protects you against 97% of the sun’s UVB rays!
- Consider water resistance – No sunscreen is completely waterproof but some are water resistant. Sunscreen products labeled “water-resistant” are effective for up to 40 minutes of swimming or sweating, while “very water resistant” products are effective for up to 80 minutes.
Why sunscreen is so important
You know sunscreen protects against cancer, but do you know how well?
Daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40% and melanoma by 50%.
That’s some serious protection! Roughly 100,000 new cases of melanoma are reported annually (and about 10% are fatal).
Plus, sunscreen helps prevent premature skin aging (like wrinkles, sagging, and age spots) caused by the sun.
Of course, sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect yourself from the sun. Wearing sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sun-safe clothing can minimize your risk of developing cancer and other sun-related issues. Even certain foods can make you less susceptible to sun damage!
If you’re interested in helping employees better understand their skin, contact us to schedule a health fair. We’ll bring our eye-opening DermaScan technology to reveal just how damaging sun can be to the skin.