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Let's Talk SPF

When I asked my 7-year-old son what is SPF, the answer was Super Powered Frogs??? Sounds interesting, but, I am talking about Sun Protection Factor. SPF ratings tell us how long we can stay in the sun without getting burned while wearing sunscreen compared to how long you burn without wearing sunscreen. For example, if you normally burn in 15 minutes without sunscreen, when you apply an SPF 10, it will take 10 times longer (2.5 hrs) to burn. Sounds nice and simple, but do you know how long it would take for you to burn without sunscreen? Or the factors involved that may increase or decrease that time?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the daily application of SPF 30 to all exposed skin. However, even an SPF 2 product will protect you just as well as an SPF 30 product. The SPF 2 product would just have to be applied much more frequently to maintain protection. The higher the SPF number does NOT mean stronger, it means longer time protected!

SPF describes the amount of UVB protection only. From a previous discussion, remember UVB rays cause sunburn. Time of day, cloud cover, and amount of sunscreen applied, all relate to the amount of UV exposure we are exposed to. To protect against both UVA and UVB rays, always look for a product labeled as “broad spectrum” or “full spectrum.” Sunscreens not labeled as such will help prevent sunburn (UVB), but will not protect against skin cancer or early aging (UVA). SPF 15 will filter about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 will filter about 97%. Higher than 30 has not been shown to be more effective.

Also, there are no such products that are Waterproof or Sweat Proof. You will see the labeling of products that are Water Resistant instead. The label will state whether the sunscreen is effective for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. It is recommended to reapply after swimming or sweating regardless of time.

Sunscreens are marketed as creams, gels, lotions, oils, sprays, sticks, or pastes. Sunscreens can be chemical-based or mineral-based. You will also see sunscreens with SPF factors of 5 to 100+. There are many factors to consider and it can be overwhelming. I will be discussing these options and more in my next post. For now, remember to REAPPLY!!

American Academy of Dermatology

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