June is National Safety Month, and this week, June 3rd – 9th, 2018, is National Sun Safety Week, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the basics of sunscreen, what it is, how to use it, SPF levels, and how much protection you need.
What exactly is an SPF rating and how much do you need? The Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, measures the level of sun protection your sunscreen contains. An SPF rating essentially signifies how much protection a product offers against the damaging UVB Rays of the sun. So how do they get these ratings? Based on ingredients in the sunscreen, the rating lets you know approximately how long you can stay in the sun before reapplication is necessary. For example, if your skin typically burns after 10 minutes in the sun, a thick layer of SPF 15 sunscreen would protect you for an estimated 150 minutes without burning. However, you also have to take into consideration other factors such as if you are in the water, participating in activities where you may sweat more, the time of day, etc.
So how much should be used and how often should it be reapplied? Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. The level you use is based on your needs. SPF 15 is good for daily use in everyday activities for your face and arms when exposure to the sun is minimal, such as driving, going to work and shopping. So based on your activities, sunscreen should be applied generously, and reapplied every two to four hours, or more often (every hour or so) if you are swimming or in the water. If you are going to be in the sun for an extended amount of time, you should opt for a level 30 or 50. Standard SPF levels are 15, 30 and 50, and while there are products that claim to be higher, the FDA warns that they are basically ineffective and can contain ingredients that cause irritation.
So the main thing to keep in mind is no matter what level of protection you choose, be sure to apply plenty of it, and apply it often!