Physical Wellbeing

What's in a Number: SPF and Beyond

There are a lot of factors in protecting your skin from the sun. We’ve got a few things to get your wheels turning before you head out for some fun in the sun!

The Challenge

Make safe plans this summer as you head out in the sunshine! Look at the sunscreen you have and evaluate if it is the best for your outdoor activities and your skin

Sunscreen is practically a necessity whenever you are heading outside any time of the year. During the summer months, you need to increase your attention to sunscreen application because you are likely to be outside more often that the cold winter months.

Sunscreen is important for all skin types…even if you do not burn easily. Getting a sunburn is an immediate action, but sun damage occurs over a lifetime. Skin cancer is more prevalent in people with lighter skin, but it does not discriminate and can still affect those with darker skin tones.

There are five different types of sunscreens to choose from, easy to apply, and carry with you at all times.

1. Spray sunscreen is super convenient especially when you are on the go or applying on children. If you utilize a spray sunscreen, make sure you apply generously with an even coating and more frequently than lotions.

2. There are certain products that have built-in sunscreens you may already use daily. Some moisturizers, lipsticks and make up already include sunscreen. These are okay for daily use when your time in the sun is limited, but when you are planning a day at the beach or walk outside plan to use a secondary source of sun protection.

3. Mineral sunscreens are available and are quickly becoming easy to find and access. These sunscreens provide protection without irritation by sitting on the skin instead of being absorbed into it.

4. Sweat or water-resistant sunscreens are not 100% waterproof, but they are specifically formulated to stay on the skin even after they get wet. You must reapply every two hours or after getting out of the water.

5. Stick sunscreen are great to carry in a backpack or purse to use as a spot application for your nose or ears. These are the areas mostly affected by skin cancer because they are often forgotten about when applying.

Decoding SPF

Let’s dig into the sun protection factor, or “SPF”, does a higher protection really mean safer sunscreen? The short answer is no. When selecting a sunscreen, you may see the higher number and think that it provides more protection. For the most part, this is correct. But you also need to take into account the type of sun rays.

  • The chief cause of reddening and sunburn is ultraviolet B rays (UVB). When protecting yourself with a sunscreen containing SPF 30, this could protect you for up to 10 hours depending on the intensity and wavelength distribution of UVB rays throughout the day and your location.

  • You also need protection from ultraviolet A rays (UVA) as well. These rays are long enough to reach your skin’s dermal layer. This could cause damage to collagen and elastic tissue if you obtain a bad enough sunburn.

  • When selecting a sunscreen, you need to look for a product with an SPF of 15 or higher. You should also select broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum, sunscreen. That sunscreen can protect you from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.

  • Sunscreens with SPF of 15 block 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 50 blocks 98% and 99% for SPF 100. It is important to note that there is no sunscreen that blocks 100% of UVB rays and high SPF sunscreens are not much more protective than SPF 30 or 50.

  • So, when it comes to sunscreen utilize SPF 30 or 50 and reapply every two hours if you are staying dry, but if you get wet reapply after you dry off. Have fun this summer and protect the skin you’re in!

*As always, the information provided is for informational purposes only. You should consult a physician prior to making any changes that impact your physical health. 

Get Together

  • Next time you’re with a group, see who has the most products with SPF protection in their possession—thing makeup, lip balm, actual sunscreen, SPF-protectant clothing, etc.!

  • Heading out on a girls’ trip? Make sure you speak up and remind others to pack their sun screen and big-brimmed hats! 


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