Premature aging, sunspots, and sunburns, oh my! While I love a nice sunny drive, I always make sure to wear a big hat, sunglasses, and most importantly my sunscreen. If there’s one piece of beauty advice I can give you it’s this — nothing looks better in your 50s than sunscreen in your 20s. Need I say more? This post will tell you all the things to know about sunscreen!
I think so many of us have heard our parents and our doctors tell us to wear sunscreen and we might when we go to the beach or to the pool but sunscreen is like underwear… it should be worn daily! And I hope you wear both daily!
But instead of preaching that you should wear it every day, I’m going to break down all the facts about sunscreen and SPF you may not know and let you make the choice for yourself. Which if you do, I’m sure you’ll be thanking your 50-year-old self one day! Here are 7 things you need to know about sunscreen right in time for the hot summer season.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
- What does SPF stand for
SPF is actually pretty straightforward — it stands for “sun protection factor”. It is used as a measure of sunscreen’s ability to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. The basic calculation is “If it takes 1 minute for your unprotected skin to start turning red [in the sun], using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer.” So say you purchase an SPF 30 sunscreen, if you usually take 10 minutes until your skin starts to burn, the SPF 30 should theoretically protect you from the sun for 300 minutes (5 hours).
But remember that SPF only protects against UVB rays —the rays that cause surface burns. It does not protect against UVA rays that can cause long-term damage like sunspots, aging, and wrinkles and may lead to skin cancer.
- What does SPF 30 mean versus SPF 50?
SPF 30 is the most commonly used. Here is a breakdown of what SPF protects:
SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
So the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is about 1% in protection, but remember every bit of extra protection is beneficial if you have fair skin or spend a substantial amount of time in direct sun. Most people apply less than the recommended amount so the higher the number is the better.
- What SPF number should be worn daily? Versus what SPF should be worn at the pool or beach?
The FDA minimum recommendation for daily sun protection is SPF 15, but the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using SPF 30 for your daily life and an SPF 50 for outdoor activities including going to the pool or beach.
- What is in SPF that makes it protectant?
Sunscreens act as a protectant to your skin but there are two different ways they can do this. Physical sunscreens create a barrier on the skin that will filter out UV rays. This stops UV photons before they reach the skin and cause damage. They are also sometimes called sunblocks. Chemical sunscreens absorb and scatter the UV rays. Sometimes these are called organic vs. inorganic sunscreen but all active ingredients are chemically derived. Some people think that physical sunblocks are more natural or organic but they actually have inorganic material compounds. Chemical sunscreens are actually UV organic filters. They are both tested as safe and effective and many sun protection products combine both types.
- Can you layer SPF to make it stronger? Like SPF 30 and then makeup with SPF 25? Does that make it SPF 55?
Adding to SPF products will not give you the coverage of SPF 55. However, study after study shows that people don’t apply enough sunscreen. So why it won’t bring up your SPF protection, it is offering more sun protection because you are sure you are getting enough sunscreen on your skin.
- Is SPF in makeup as helpful as regular sunscreen?
Mostly no, because you don’t apply enough foundation, powder, or moisturizer to render it effective. You would need 7 times the amount of normal foundation or 14 times the amount of normal power to get the amount of sun protection you need.
- So how do I make my SPF as effective as possible?
There are a few things you can do to make your sunscreen work as much as possible for you. Instead of going for makeup products that include sunscreen, find a sunscreen that won’t pill under makeup and use it independently from your makeup. Some are our favorites are:
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 60 (link)
Aveeno Positively Radiant Sheer Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 (link)
CeraVe Skin Renewing Day Cream SPF 30 (link)
Olay Complete Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 30 (link)
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion (link)
SUPERGOOP! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 (link)
Use an SPF 30 (at least) for day to day to life. Apply it indoors 30 minutes before you are going out into the sun. Sunscreen should be applied towards the end of your beauty routine, so don’t layer your skincare products on top. If you are using a cream or lotion-based sunscreen, put it on after your moisturizer. Don’t mix with your moisturizer as you’ll dilute it and lose protection.
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