With SPF popping up in nearly all of our cosmetics, it’s becoming difficult to avoid wearing sun protection regularly—and that’s a good thing! With beautiful bronzers and innovative self-tanners, there’s no need to lay in the sun anymore for that sunkissed glow. We also know that sun damage plays a huge part in accelerating skin aging and increasing your risk of skin cancer, so there’s no excuse not to slather on the SPF (especially with the advanced formulas we have today).
Even though we are more aware and informed than ever before about the dangers of the sun, there are three things to keep in mind when hitting the store to buy a bottle. Keep scrolling and read on to make sure you’re making the best choice for you!
What Exactly "SPF" Means
You’ve seen it everywhere—from your sunscreen bottle to moisturizer to foundation and lip balm. Take a moment, think of what SPF is and then read on to see if you were right.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden the skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long it would take without. For example, SPF 15 means “it will take 15 times longer to redden the skin than it would without sunscreen”. There’s a few things to note in that statement; a) SPF doesn’t mean anything for UVA rays and b) it depends on the person who is wearing it. If you take a fair-skinned individual who burns quickly and one with a medium skin tone who doesn’t, a single sunscreen formula with equal SPF will perform differently for each of them.
Higher Doesn't Necessarily Mean Better
Many people think that SPF 30 is twice as effective as SPF 15 or that SPF 100 means 100% protection. Both of those statements are incorrect, and while it’s important to keep in mind the actual meaning of SPF, it’s also important to realize how much protection you’re actually getting. SPF 15 screens 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 screens 97% and SPF 50 screens 98%.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that using at least SPF 15 is necessary for adequate protection, but look at those numbers—98% for SPF 50! Going forward, SPF 50+ will be the label on any sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher. Current formulas have the option to re-label, but they may not. Just keep in mind that anything above SPF 50 is essentially no more effective at protecting you against UVB rays.
Look For The UVA Circle
When it comes to sunscreen, seeing “broad-spectrum” on the label doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being protected like you think you are. UVA rays penetrate more deeply than UVB rays, and while they are the dominant “tanning” ray (UVB is the dominant “burning” ray), UVA is also known to play a major part in skin aging as well as skin cancer.
What you may not know, is that simply labeling UVA on the label doesn’t tell you much. Since SPF is a measure of UVB protection, we didn’t really know exactly how much UVA protection we were actually getting from our sunscreen. Until now—the new UVA logo (the letters “UVA” in a circle) can only be labeled on sunscreens with a UVA protection that is at least 1/3 of the UVB protection. It’s a small detail to look for, but it’s an important one!