SPF Skincare Products
Remember the worst sunburn you’ve ever had? Ouch! There’s a reason sunburns hurt- they’re actually damaging to the skin, and sun damage is cumulative, meaning just because a sunburn eventually fades or peels away, doesn’t mean your skin isn’t still effected. Before you start to worry, know that sun damage is 100% preventable, and prevention is much easier and more affordable than correcting sun damage later.
What Does SPF Stand For?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, aka the measure of protection from the sun’s UV, or ultraviolet rays.
Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, but did you know that there are two types of sun rays? They’re called UVA and UVB. UVB stands for ultraviolet burning, and these rays are responsible for the red, inflamed sunburns we’ve all had at one time or another. UVA stands for ultraviolet aging. UVA rays affect the skin’s aging process, including fine lines and dark spots.
Broad spectrum SPF acts as a shield to protect your skin from both types of ultraviolet rays.
What’s In A Number?
You’ve probably noticed that every brand of sunscreen has a variety of SPF numbers to choose from. These numbers indicate how long it would take for the sun’s UV radiation to burn your skin after applying sunscreen. For example, SPF 30 means it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. Additionally, each SPF number will protect your skin from a certain percentage of the sun’s UVB rays; the higher SPF you use, the more you are protected from sun damage.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common SPF numbers:
- SPF 15 – Blocks 93 percent of UVB rays
- SPF 30 – Blocks 97 percent of UVB rays
- SPF 50 – Blocks 98 percent of UVB rays
All sunscreen manufacturers have to adhere to the same FDA-approved tests, ensuring that SPF claims are consistent across all sunscreens, both chemical and mineral, so the SPF number you choose should protect you the same across all brands of sunscreen.
How Does Sunscreen Work?
Sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s rays using certain key ingredients, either mineral or chemical, to absorb and/or reflect UVB rays. There are two main types of filters in sunscreen:
Chemical SPF uses organic filtering ingredients such as avobenzone, homosalate and octocrylene to absorb radiation and convert it to a small amount of heat. Examples of chemical SPFs include cinnamates, salicylates and benzophenone. Chemical SPFs are often clear, breathable formulas that feel lighter on the skin.
Mineral SPFs are made from inorganic key ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These mineral ingredients help protect the skin by both reflecting and absorbing the sun’s UV rays.
Mineral SPF is less irritating to the skin, so it works best for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin. It’s also a good choice for days that you’ll mostly be indoors, and there are plenty of makeup-friendly and tinted sunscreens out there to choose from.
What about water resistant?
If you see the phrase “water resistant” on sunscreen, that means the SPF will be effective for up to 40 minutes in water. If you see “very water resistant,” the SPF will remain effective for up to 80 minutes in water.
Forms of SPF
There are many forms of SPF, and they all have their own benefits and optimal uses. Here are a few:
- Creams – Best for dry skin types.
- Lotions – Best for applying to large areas. Lotions are thinner and feel lighter than SPF creams.
- Gel – Best for hairy areas, such as the scalp. Men might opt to use this on the chest, legs and/or back.
- Stick – Best for use around the eyes.
- Spray – Best for children and flying solo. Sprays are also great for reaching hard-to-reach places like the back. Pay attention to the direction of the wind before spraying to make sure you get everything covered and don’t get any sunscreen in your eyes or mouth.
What To Consider When Choosing A Sunscreen
If you have fairer skin and burn easily, you’ll want to opt for a higher SPF for optimal protection. People with darker skin, might choose a clear formula as some creams and lotions will leave white streaks and/or residue on the skin.
As mentioned above, chemical SPFs work best for individuals with sensitive or acne prone skin. If you have dry skin, you might want to opt for a cream over another form of sunscreen. If you have other special skin concerns, feel free to consult your doctor or dermatologist for product recommendations or other tips for protecting your skin from the sun.
If you’re going swimming, be sure to use a water resistant sunscreen and reapply regularly. Many brands also offer sweat-resistant sunscreen for sports or any other activity that might cause you to sweat more than normal.
A few other things to consider:
- A high UV index means that unprotected skin will burn faster or more severely. It’s best to always wear SPF but be sure to check the UV index before going outside.
- Broad spectrum SPF is the only type of sunscreen that will protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays.
- Experts generally recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Some SPFs now offer protection from blue light, which is the light emitted from electronic devices.
In addition to applying sunscreen, you can protect your skin by shading it from the sun. If you’re somewhere like the beach or the park, try sitting under a large beach umbrella or tree. And you can always protect your face from the sun by wearing a hat. Even baseball caps offer some coverage.
If you burn:
According to the American Cancer Society:
- Apply an anti-inflammatory steroid cream.
- Advil or Motrin (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may help, & if taken within the first few hours after the sunburn.
- Avoid further sun exposure, wear loose, breathable clothing and stay well hydrated.
- If you develop blistering, especially over large areas, feel woozy, feverish or develop chills, seek medical treatment from a professional.