What Do SPF Numbers Actually Mean?

coola mineral body sunscreen

We’ve been focusing a lot on sun protection on the blog the last few weeks. Being Summertime (and with that, record highs) it’s all the more important to be giving proper attention to protecting your skin. However, one of the things we haven’t really covered is SPF. Most people assume that the higher the SPF number, the greater the protection, but this isn’t really the case.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF number is a measure of how much UV radiation (the rays responsible for sunburns) it would take for your skin to burn when you’re wearing sunscreen compared to when you’re unprotected. So you would think the higher the SPF number, the better? Well, not exactly.

There are a several more factors that go into SPF. The intensity of the sun, the time of day, and the activities one engages in can cause the protection length to vary. It’s not as simple as making sure you’re slathered in a high SPF. Importation considerations include:

  • What time of day is it?
  • Has your sunscreen been wiped off by the water or sweat?
  • Do you have a history of skin cancer in your family?
  • Are you taking medications that could make sunscreen less effective?

Another reason that SPF is not the best measure of protection is that it doesn’t take into account UVA radiation. Ultraviolet type A radiation penetrates the skin deeper than UVB and causes more skin cell damage. When looking for protection against both UVA and UVB rays it’s important to look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen like COOLA.

The best way to prevent premature aging, skin cancer, wrinkles, etc. would be to stay out of the sun. However, we know this recommendation isn’t realistic. The best next tips are to choose the right sunscreen (one with both UVA and UVB protection), apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, reapply often, and have regular check ups with a dermatologist to have your skin examined.

Sources: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb