Do you ever wonder what those numbers really mean? Is SPF 100 really better than SPF 30? SPF is a sunscreen’s “Sun Protection Factor.” This number tells you how long it would take the sun’s UV radiation to redden your skin when using the sunscreen versus without any sunscreen. For example, wearing an SPF 30 would ideally make your sun protection last 30 times longer than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. However, SPF only works under the assumption that you are applying the sunscreen exactly as directed– that means the correct amount and consistent reapplication over time. So if you think you can slather on the highest SPF number you can find just once and be covered for a full day at the beach–think again! For the best possible protection, it’s important to apply one ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen SPF30 or higher and reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating. Use umbrellas, hats, and sunglasses with UV protection whenever possible to cover up.
Physical VS Chemical Formulas
Physical, or mineral, sunscreens block UV rays by creating a barrier on top of the skin. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the two most common physical sunscreen ingredients that block a broad spectrum of UV rays. Physical sunscreens may feel thick and don’t hold up to water or sweat, but they are less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds that absorb UV rays through a chemical reaction, neutralizing the UV radiation before it can harm your skin. Chemical sunscreens can be more sheer and easy to apply, but they also must be applied up to 30 minutes before sun exposure and can potentially irritate sensitive skin types.
When it comes to choosing your sunscreen, consider which kind of sunscreen is best for daily use or a specific activity, as well as your skin’s individual needs.
There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin — UVA and UVB. UVB rays are the ones that you may be most familiar with–UVB rays burn your skin. UVA rays are the ones that can age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. Too much exposure to both UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen must pass the FDA’s “broad spectrum” test, and protects you from both kinds of damaging rays.
Take your sun protection to the next level by adding antioxidants! Even high SPF broad-spectrum sunscreens aren’t always 100% effective against sun damage. The residual UV rays that get through your sunscreen can trigger free radical damage. Antioxidants defend your skin against free radicals and other environmental aggressors that can damage your skin’s cells and contribute to signs of premature aging. This extra layer of protection between your skin and the environment can dramatically reduce the environmental stress that speeds up aging. Use an antioxidant serum plus a sunscreen together to get you through the summer months with as little damage as possible.