SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, is an indicator applied to cosmetic products (primarily sunscreen) that indicates the product’s ability to filter UV rays from the sun and prevent sunburn.
Using sunscreen, skincare and makeup products with SPF are ideal for protecting your skin from the sun, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Regardless of season, the sun can cause skin damage from premature aging and fine lines to burns, dryness, peeling and even skin cancer.
Most of these conditions are preventable by implementing a sunscreen with SPF into your skin routine or utilizing skincare with SPF!
How does SPF work?
The SPF number tells you how long it will take (if used properly) for your skin to burn. So an SPF of 30 will protect you for 30 times longer than if you wore none at all.
In other words, SPF 30 filters out all but 3.3% (approximately) of UV rays.
In lab conditions, SPF ratings above 30 improve coverage and protection from the sun. However, the improvements above 30 are marginal and often give users a false sense of security.
Using a high SPF product does not mean that you can skip reapplying! You can’t forget to stay in the shade, wear a hat or cover with clothing. Without taking these extra measures, a high SPF will cause more damage than reapplying a lower SPF.
Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen
If sunscreen is your SPF of choice, make sure to identify whether you’ll go with a physical or chemical sunscreen.
Physical sunscreens reflect the sun’s rays, acting as a barrier between the sun and your skin. It tends to be thicker and more opaque, making it easy to tell where it’s rubbed off. It’s often recommended for people with sensitive skin who might not react well to chemical sunscreen.
However, physical sunscreen’s thickness may block pores and aren’t ideal for acne-prone or oily skin.
Chemical sunscreen permeates the skin then absorbs UV rays, converts them into heat, and releases them from the body. Read more about the science of chemical sunscreen here. Chemical sunscreens are usually thinner and absorb more quickly. They’re ideal if you need a water- or sweat-resistant formula if you swim or are playing sports.
However, some chemical UV filters can cause allergic reactions or irritation in sensitive skin. There are also some concerns about long term use, but identifying a product with antioxidants will reduce the potential impact of chemical sunscreen.
Sources of SPF
When we think of SPF, we immediately jump to sunscreen, but more and more skincare and makeup products contain SPF!
Finding a product you already use (like moisturizer or primer) with SPF is a great way to add it in your routine without adding another product or step. Another layer of product can clog your pores or create competing active ingredients.
If you’re spending a day in the sun, don’t forget a SPF-tinted lip balm to prevent excess dryness or even sunburn from your lips.
As we approach summer, it’s essential to implement SPF in your routine to preserve a summer glow and avoid sunburns! However, SPF is a year-round necessity, as your skin is dealing with the sun’s UV rays no matter the season.
Using SPF also keeps your skin looking younger longer - add it to your self-care routine and your skin will thank you!