What Does SPF Mean? Which One Should You Use?

Some helpful reminders for those who come alive in the sun

After months of lockdown, there’s nothing better than being out even if the sun isn’t shining. So whether you’re planning a sunny staycation, a day-trip to the park or just a walk with a friend.

There are many benefits to getting a daily dose of sunlight, and having protection in place ensures you can make the most of them – it’s all about getting enough vitamin D while keeping out harmful rays, whether it’s cloudy or not. We know that it can be all too easy to forget to apply sun lotion both on your face and body. Knowing which SPF to use is a great first step towards staying protected, indulging your senses and feeling fabulous out in the sun.

What exactly is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a way of measuring the level of protection a product offers you against Ultraviolet B radiation (UVB). SPF is ranked by a number ranging between 2 and 50+, with 50+ offering the highest level of protection. This number is the UV protection level. The SPF number shown on the product refers to the amount of time you can stay in the sun without experiencing overexposure on your skin. The higher the SPF, the higher the protection against UV related damage. For example, used correctly a SPF 30, blocks out 97% of UVB.

As well as UVB you also need to make sure you’re protected against Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. UVA has a longer wavelength and is usually associated with skin ageing, whereas UVB has a shorter wavelength and is usually the cause of skin burning. As you might guess, UVB rays are stronger in the summer - while UVA remains pretty much constant throughout the year. Therefore, it’s important to wear SPF all year round and opt for a higher SPF during the summer months.

By multiplying the SPF number by your personal self-protection time (the number of minutes you can be out in the sun before burning) you can work out how long it is safe for you to be in the sun and figure out the right SPF for your personal needs. For example: if you can stay for 10 minutes in the sun without getting sunburned, a product with SPF 10 would multiply this protection time by 10.

How much SPF should I apply?
Lots of people don’t apply enough and this means that the amount of protection your sun care gives is reduced. If you’re just covering your head, arms and neck 2 teaspoons of sunscreen should be sufficient. If you are covering your entire body, because you’re wearing shorts, a bikini or swimming costume, you should apply at least 2 tablespoons. Our recommendation is to apply sun cream 30 minutes before going out and reapply after swimming, even if the sun cream is water resistant.

You know your skin better than we do, so it’s best to consider your skin type when you are choosing your SPF. However, remember that it won’t give you complete protection from the sun and you need to ensure to follow our five sun safety tips:

  • Wear high factor SPF and reapply regularly
  • Stay in the shade during the hottest hours of the day
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water
  • Protect your head with a wide brimmed hat
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses, and make sure that they have the CE Kitemark and the UV-400 mark. This means that they will give you 99% UV protection

Did you know?
You can still get burned even when wearing a hat or sitting in the shade? It's all about reflection - surfaces like water, sand, snow, and pavement all reflect the sun and intensify the exposure.

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