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Sunscreen 101: Everything You Need To Know About SPF

Learn more about SPF & sunscreen

By Tess DiNapoliPublished 5 months ago 5 min read

Sunscreen has always been a reminder of hot summer days and lying down on the beach with a good book. Nowadays, more people recognize the importance of sunscreen to keep their skin healthy. Applying this topical lotion is one of the most vital steps in skincare.

So, if until now you thought you only had to use sunscreen during summer, keep reading. Here, we will tell you everything you need to know about sunscreen and SPF so you can keep your skin even-toned, safe, and healthy.

What is Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a cream or lotion made from beneficial ingredients that protect your skin against the harmful rays of the sun. There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun: UVA and UVB.

UVA penetrates deep layers of the skin and causes aging, while UVB is more responsible for sunburns and skin inflammation. However, they both damage the skin, causing it to age prematurely and become more susceptible to cancer.

What is SPF?

Understanding SPF and sunscreen can help you protect your skin better. SPF is short for sun protection factor, a scale to determine how well a product shields the skin from sun rays.

When you're shopping for sunscreens, you can see labels stating SPF 15 or SPF 30. SPF 15 has 93% efficiency in protecting your skin. The sun-blocking power of SPF 30 products is only 4% more, at 97%. Experts recommend using 30 to 50 SPF sunscreens.

It’s worth noting that sunscreens with higher SPFs don’t provide extra protection. Astronomical SPF claims, like 75 or 100, are marketing strategies to mislead customers. SPF 30 sunscreens provide enough protection for everyday use.

PA and Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens

PA and broad-spectrum are systems that tell customers what type of protection a sunscreen provides.

PA is used in some countries and stands for the protection grade of UVA. This scale, shown with a + symbol, measures a product’s efficiency against UVA. Broad-spectrum is a scale used in the U.S. and Canada. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB. As we already mentioned, these rays are both damaging to the skin. So, it’s best to choose broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect your skin against all types of rays.

Different Types of Sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreen on the market:

  • Physical Sunscreens

These sunscreens are also called mineral sunscreens or sun blockers. They contain mineral-based ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that sit on your skin to create a barrier against sun rays and deflect them away from you.

  • Chemical Sunscreens

These sunscreens are also called sun filters. They contain organic carbon-based ingredients, like homosalate and avobenzone. These compounds absorb UV radiation when it hits your skin. They convert the rays into heat and release them from your body, so they can’t hurt you.

While physical sunscreens are more effective and dermatologist-recommended, chemical sunscreens are better than no sunscreen at all. Each one contains different ingredients, but, ultimately, both prevent skin damage from the sun.

How to Tell Whether a Sunscreen is Physical or Chemical?

You can check the ingredients list on the sunscreen to see if it’s physical or chemical. Physical sunscreens will have titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens have ingredients that usually end in -ate, -ene, or –one. Homosalate, avobenzone, and oxybenzone are some examples.

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen

The sunscreen you choose depends on your skin type and personal preferences. Physical sunscreens usually work best for people with sensitive skin. For example, a hyperpigmentation sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin, that promotes an even-looking skin tone, and blends in perfectly is a great place to start.

Do I Need to Wear Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is mandatory for everyone. If your skin is exposed to the sun, you must wear sunscreen. Why? Because if you don’t, you face the following risks:

  • Dry skin
  • Skin cancer
  • Dark patches
  • Premature aging
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Sunspots and sunburns
  • Weakened immune system

How to Apply Sunscreen Correctly

To efficiently protect your skin from the sun, you must know how to apply your sunscreen correctly.

Let’s talk about the order of application. Do you apply sunscreen before or after your moisturizer? Well, it depends on what type of sunscreen you’re using. If it’s a chemical sunscreen, start your skincare routine with it so the product can sink into your skin. If it’s a physical one, make it the last step of your process before you head out. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Measure Your Sunscreen

Generally, you will need about ½ a teaspoon of sunscreen to cover your entire face and neck. This amount equals two strips of sunscreen on your index and middle fingers.

2. Apply It to Your Skin

Don’t just start rubbing the sunscreen directly on your skin. Instead, apply it on your face in dots to evenly spread the product, and then gently massage it into your skin.

3. Don’t Forget to Reapply

Sunscreen wears off as time passes. So, don’t forget to reapply it every two hours to keep your skin safe.

Don’t Forget to Protect These Areas

Your face and neck aren’t the only areas of your body that need protection from the sun. You should protect any exposed part of your body. You might be surprised to hear this, but your scalp, ears, and lips also need protection.

There are numerous products to help you keep your entire body safe. You can apply hair sunscreen serums to your scalp and hydrate your lips with sunscreen-infused lip balms. Body lotions with sunscreens are also available to help protect your entire body from sun rays.

Stay Safe With Sunscreen

We hope this article could show you how important sunscreen is. If you were using it before, keep it up! If not, add it to your skincare routine! Your glowing complexion and healthy body will thank you later!


About the Creator

Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.

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