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SPF. What is the big deal?

As summer approaches, we are anxiously awaiting our chance to do all of our favorite summer activities--barbecues

and lake days here we come! But as fun as it is to play in the sun and let our worries drift away, forgetting to put on sunscreen can have long term and dire effects on our skin. Our giant fiery friend in the sky is the number one cause of aging skin and plays a key role in developing skin cancer. This is why it’s imperative to protect our body's largest organ that protects us 24/7. However, choosing a sunscreen can be confusing with all the different types and brands out there, and not choosing one that has enough protection is just a waste. So how can you navigate which type is the best to use? We are here to break it down for you. 


What is SPF?


Let's first start off by talking about SPF and what that actually means. SPF is an acronym for Sun Protection Factor. The number behind this acronym is an indicator to tell you how long your skin will be protected from harmful sun rays. For example, a bottle of SPF 30 indicates your skin will be protected and not burn for 30 minutes longer than if you weren't using sunscreen. For skin to be fully protected, dermatologists recommend using an SPF 30 or higher which blocks 97% of the sun's harmful UVB rays. It's important to keep in mind that the higher the protection factor does not mean the better the sunscreen. No sunscreen will block 100% of harmful UVB rays and SPF 50 only blocks a little more than an SPF 30. In a nutshell, being an overachiever and wearing SPF 50 doesn't mean you don't have to reapply as often, or that you can spend an extended amount of time in the sun. No matter the protection factor, you still need to be mindful of when you applied last and when you will need to reapply again. 

Different Types of Sun Rays


They say everything is better in pairs, well maybe not this. There isn’t just one type of sun ray that we need to be aware of, but two: UVA and UVB rays. UVA (long wave ultraviolet A) rays are able to penetrate farther into the skin and reach the dermis (the thickest layer and living tissue within our skin). They are responsible for destroying elasticity and firmness, making them the leading cause of prematurely aged skin; causing those unwanted wrinkles and dreadful age spots. UVB (short wave ultraviolet B) rays will burn the superficial layers of the skin resulting in what we know as a sunburn. They can still contribute to those pesky wrinkles but their main goal is causing skin cancer.

What to Look For


When shopping for the best sunscreen, there is only one option that will best protect you from both harmful rays: a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sunscreens contain Zinc Oxide as well as Titanium Dioxide. Both minerals are able to block and scatter UVA and UVB rays before they can penetrate and reach the surface of our skin. When it comes to SPF, it is not one size fits all. Since we all experience our own individual skin type, there are options when it comes to SPF protection that come in a variety of forms: lotion, cream, gel and aerosol sprays. Lotion and cream sunblocks are the most reliable and are able to cover every surface inch of skin evenly. They can be used for dry and oily skin types. Note: if you lean towards the oily side, then opt for a sunscreen that is oil-free. Gel sunblocks are best for the scalp and men’s chest. Aerosol spray sunscreens can be used for all skin types and seem to grow in popularity for one purpose, convenience. However, they offer the worst protection for our skin. Aerosol sprays are not reliable and do not spray evenly, so the amount that is actually applied to the skin is not enough to protect you. It is best to stick with lotions and creams so that you cover every inch of surface skin. 

Apply, Reapply and Always Apply! 


Rule of thumb for applying sunscreen is to first make sure you are applying enough to fully be protected. Most individuals only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen to be fully protected. You should be using about a dollop size for your face and about one ounce--or the equivalent of a full shot glass, for your body. Make sure you are covering all areas of the body that will be exposed to the sun. That includes the tippity top of your ears all the way down to your feet, making sure to not neglect your lips. They need sun protection as well so use a lip balm with an SPF 30 to shield those sun rays. So how often do you need to reapply? Reapply every 90 minutes, and always reapply immediately after any physical activity, sweating and swimming.  

Do I Still Need to Wear Sunscreen If…

I have SPF in my makeup. Yes! The SPF in your makeup is most likely an SPF 15 or 20, even if it is higher, it’s diluted and not fully effective. For maximum protection, you need to apply a separate sunscreen or moisturizer that has at least an SPF 30 or higher. Anything less isn’t protecting your skin. So make sure you're always wearing SPF under your makeup with the appropriate amount. 


It's cloudy. As an aesthetician, this is the statement I would constantly hear from clients regarding sun protection. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but yes! Even when it’s cloudy, you still need sunscreen! Up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation can still penetrate your skin on a cloudy day. Going unprotected on an overcast day can still lead to skin damage and you can still experience sunburns. Get in the habit of applying sunscreen on your face every day, rain or shine! 

I don’t burn. Even though you don't experience sunburns, there is still a chance that you could develop skin cancer. Everyone needs sun protection!

Our daily lives are busy and sometimes adding an extra step in the morning seems mundane. Nevertheless, that extra step is major for not only our skin, but our overall health. Our skin is our only defense system from the harsh elements and environment, so let's treat it right and protect it every chance we can. Apply that SPF! 

References: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs https://www.colorescience.com/learn/what-is-spf https://www.skincancer.org/blog/ask-the-expert-does-a-high-spf-protect-my-skin-better/ https://coola.com/pages/sun-science

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