SPF, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
You’ve heard it before, wear SPF everyday to protect against sun damage, but with the ever-growing array of suncare products, do you know how to navigate it all? Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important steps in keeping the skin appearing youthful and protected. In fact, photo-damage is one of the leading causes of accelerated aging and skin cancer. With buzzwords like SPF, UVA, UVB, physical vs. chemical, it can be overwhelming when trying to pick a product.
The first consideration to make when selecting a sunscreen is do you prefer physical or chemical. A physical (mineral) sunscreen, as the name suggests, forms a physical barrier on top of the skin and reflects the UV light. The barrier is typically made ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. A chemical sunscreen on the other hand, works by absorbing the UV rays and converting it to heat. Neither is more efficacious than the other, it just comes down to your personal preference.
UVB, UVA and broad spectrum, what do these terms mean? Ultraviolet radiation A and B, though invisible to our naked eye, is able to penetrate the atmosphere and wreak havoc on our skin contributing to premature aging, skin cancer and eye damage. UVB rays are known to cause sunburns and has a minor role in photo-aging, while UVA, though it doesn’t contribute to burning, it is the primary cause for accelerated aging. As both types of rays are detrimental to the skin, we need protection from both – this is why a broad spectrum sunscreen is important.
SPF refers to sun protection factor, and is a measure of how well your sunscreen protects you from the sun’s rays. It is calculated as a ratio of the amount of radiation required to burn the skin with sunscreen applied to the amount required without any sunscreen. This explains where we get the numbers 10, 30, 50 and so on from. Let’s say it would ordinarily take 10 minutes for the skin to burn without sunscreen, with an SPF 30, this means you have protection for 30x longer i.e. 300 hours. This is the best case scenario of course, and why dermatologists recommend re-applying every 2 hours. When it comes to SPF, one of the biggest misconceptions is that the higher the SPF the more protection you’ll have. That’s not necessarily true. What researchers actually find is with an SPF15, it offers 94% protection against rays, an SPF30 protects against 97% and an SPF50 gives 98% protection. The general consensus amongst dermatologists is SPF 30 is good enough for everyday use, and SPF 50 is recommended for prolonged outdoor use.
Less is not always more, and that is certainly the case when it comes to sunscreen. By and large, most people are not using the required amount of product for full protection but instead only apply about 25% of what is needed.
Our favourite SPF products: