Sunscreen is a summer essential. As the weather heats up and we spend more time outside, it becomes a vital part of protecting us from harmful rays of the sun. As with all products, it’s important to understand their function and why we need them. Here’s a deeper look into why sunscreen and SPF are essential.


What is SPF?

An article written for elaborates by saying, “Despite the fact that very few people know what it is, SPF is actually pretty straightforward. SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”, and is a measure of the sunscreen’s ability to protect your skin from UVB rays.” We need SPF to help keep our skin protected. When out in the sun, our skin is attacked by two forms of  UV rays. UVA rays go deep into our skin. They cause long term effects like wrinkles and sun damage. UVB rays, on the other hand, are the ones that cause sunburns and can lead to skin cancer. Keep in mind that SPF can only protect you from UVB rays. They do nothing to stop the long term effects of UVA. Take additional precautions that can help you avoid both.

Putting on sunscreen

How Does it Work?

What do the numbers on your sunscreen bottle mean? The above mentioned article also explains, “The basic calculation works like this: “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.” Say you purchase an SPF 30 sunscreen. If it typically takes 10 minutes until your skin starts to burn, by using the SPF 30, you’re theoretically protected from the sun for 300 minutes, or 5 hours.”


Which SPF is best?

What level of SPF is right for you? There are a couple of factors that can help you answer this question. First, how fair is your skin? Second, how long are you planning on being out in the sun? An article written for states, “SPF 30 is the most common level for most people and skin types. No sunscreen can block all UV rays, but what we do know is: SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. So, the difference between 30 and 50 is about 1 percent. But every bit of extra protection can be beneficial if you are very fair or spending a lot of time in direct sun! And most people apply less than the recommend amount (about one ounce for full body coverage), so the higher the number the better.” It’s okay to be over cautious with both how much sunscreen you apply and how frequently you apply it.


When it comes to protecting your skin, you can’t be too safe. Understanding and utilizing SPF will help you avoid both long and short term problems associated with the sun.