If you pay attention to the label on your sunscreen then you will notice the letters SPF that goes from SPF 15 and all the way up to SPF 100.
As a matter of fact, the amount of SPF indicates the quality of the sunscreen you are using. This often makes people wonder if a higher level of SPF always means a better sunscreen.
Today, we are going to share with you what you need to know about SPF before choosing your next sunscreen for your summer vacation. Let’s get started!
What Does SPF mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure for sunscreen protection from UVB rays. This is the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to cancer in the long run.
On the other hand, UVA rays penetrate deeper causing wrinkles, dark spots, and premature aging. If you are inside most of the time and only have short intervals in the sun, SPF 15 is ideal. SPF 30 or higher that is water-resistant is recommended if you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially when the sun is strongest.
Think about it this way: if your skin normally burns after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without being sunburned for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer, hence SPF 15).
Does a Higher SPF Protect My Skin Better?
Many of us directly go straight for a higher SPF sunscreen. In reality, a higher SPF does not always mean it protects your skin better.
First, it can cause a false sense of security. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun much longer and may have skin reapplying. As a result, they end up with more UV damage.
Also, high SPF can lead to skin irritation and allergy for those with sensitive skin and can also lead to dark spots. Of course, it is important to consider the level of SPF when buying your sunscreen but a high SPF is not the only factor that determines a good sunscreen.
The Different SPF Levels:
- SPF 50+: Blocks approximately 98% of UVB rays. Recommended if your skin is sensitive to sunlight and those prone to heat-activated skin conditions. Also, ideal for those who are constantly exposed to sunlight.
- SPF 20 – 30: Best suited for people who can get sunburned easily. The lab results suggest that it can block up to 97% of UVB rays. Also recommended for people who spend a lot of time outdoors.
- SPF 12 – 20: A sensible way to tan is with SPF 12 – 20. Those who can get easily tanned but not dark should go for an SPF level that is higher than 10 as it can block up to 95% of UVB rays.
- SPF 8 – 12: Blocks up to 87.5% – 90% of UVB rays. This means that you can be exposed to sunlight for about 2 hours. This SPF is best suited for skin that does not get sunburned quickly.
- SPF 4 – 8: Blocks up to 70 – 87.5% UVB and is suitable for skin that does not get burned easily
- SPF 2 – 4: Best for those who find it difficult to get sunburned or tan. It blocks between 50 – 70% of UVB rays.
Choosing the Right SPF and Sunscreen for Your Skin
Knowing what SPF to use depending on your skin type is crucial when choosing what sunscreen to buy.
- SPF for Oily Skin: Best suited for gel or serum sunscreen that contains water and can quickly absorb into the skin. The alcohol mixed in the sunscreen helps to control the skin’s oiliness. Should aim for SPF 15 or higher with PA+++
- SPF for Dry Skin: Lotion is the most suitable for dry skin. It helps to prevent water loss and adds moisture to the skin. Avoid formulas with alcohol because it may lead to dry skin.
- SPF for Sensitive Skin: Avoid sunscreen that contains alcohol and perfume. A good option is to go for sunscreen for kids and lotion sunscreen so that it can easily be absorbed. It’s recommended to go for a sunscreen that contains SPF 30 or more to protect the skin from UV damage without causing redness or irritation. Don’t forget to test your sunscreen for irritation before buying.
- SPF for Normal Skin: Cream sunscreens are great for normal skin as they often contain moisturizers that help to radiant the skin. You can choose from SPF 15 – 30 depending on how exposed you think you will be in the sun.
Get to Know the Level of PA
Now that we understand SPF, let’s also have a look at the significance of the PA sunscreen rating system.
PA stands for Protection Grade of UVA that causes the skin to turn brown. The sun’s UVA rays do not cause sunburn; rather, they cause the skin to turn brown. UVA rays are known as the sun’s silent killers because you don’t feel them affecting the skin.
As helpful as the PA rating system may seem, it is worth noting that it is not a standard measurement for measuring UVA absorption and not all countries agree with how the PA measurement values are achieved.
This is What Each PA rating means:
- PA+ = Some UVA Protection
- PA++ = Moderate UVA Protection
- PA+++ = High UVA Protection
- PA ++++ = Extremely High UVA Protection
For long exposure to sunlight, it is recommended to go for a sunscreen that has PA++ labeled on it.
Today, people often purchase between SPF 30 and SPF 50 with PA+++ up to PA++++.
Generally speaking, you should go for SPF 30 with PA+++ if you are going to be exposed to the sun for a long duration. For outdoor enthusiasts and those prone to sunburn, SPF 50 with PA++++ that is also water-resistant is recommended.
Indeed, knowing your SPF matters but it is not the only factor that determines a good sunscreen. A higher SPF can better protect against sunburn but a good sunscreen should also be water-resistant.
As dermatologists suggest, it’s always safer to go for sunscreens that are free of chemicals to prevent the risks of acne and clogged pores developing.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the PA level next to the SPF the next time you go shopping for a sunscreen!