If you have memories of your mom smothering so much sunscreen on your body that you looked like the abominable snowman, you may be wondering if she was going overboard. Which leads us to our next question (that isn’t related to your mother): how much SPF is enough?
Know the Sun’s Rays
The sun has two types of rays: UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays, both of which are invisible to humans. Each of these rays can damage the DNA in your skin, cause sun damage, and may ultimately lead to skin cancer.
- UVB Rays: UVB rays caused that sunburn that left you looking like a lobster when you were younger. These rays cause sunburns and are the key component in skin cancer.
- UVA Rays: These rays may give you that dewy glow, but they also lead to aging and wrinkles. Also, short wavelengths of UVA rays can also lead to sunburn.
What Does the Number On a Sunscreen Mean?
When you go to pick up sunscreen, you will notice that it either says that it is an SPF 15, SPF 30, or SPF 50 (these are the most popular options). But what does that number mean? It means that when you apply that sunscreen, you will have that much amount of time before the sun makes your skin red than if you weren’t wearing anything. For instance, if you were wearing an SPF 30, it would ideally, take your skin 30 minutes longer to get red than if you weren’t wearing anything.
Also, an SPF 30 only allows 3% of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate your skin while an SPF 50 allows 2% of the sun’s rays to penetrate.
What Should I look for in a sunscreen?
Unfortunately, not all sunscreens are created equal. Not only do you want to find a trusted brand of sunscreen that isn’t past its expiration date, but you also want to find a sunscreen that meets the following criteria:
- Broad Spectrum: This means it will shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Water and Sweat Resistant: This will help the sunscreen last longer while you’re exercising or playing in the water.
- SPF 30 or higher: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that patients always wear at least an SPF 30 when going out in the sun.