Understanding SPF can be very important to our health, but let’s be real, do we even know what it stands for? Wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect yourself from skin cancer, but with so many brands available, it can be difficult to know which is best for us. When it comes to sun protection, a lot of us don’t know much about what is IN sunscreen that keeps our skin safe. Here are some terms and tips you should know before soaking up the sun!
What are the SPF numbers? and what do they stand for?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is measured in the sunscreen’s ability to shield UVB rays from damaging your skin. The SPF rating system uses the time a sunscreen will protect your skin before it reddens from UVB rays compared to how long your skin will burn without any sun protection at all.
SPF 30 would mean 1/30 of the UVB rays get through to your skin – Blocking about 97% of UVB rays
Exposure to the Elements: Water Resistant/ Water Proof? What means what?
Water resistant, waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreens must pass an independent test to prove they retain their stated SPF while swimming or sweating. Because no sun protection is completely water-proof, it’s always best to choose a water resistant formula and reapply after being in the water.
Since there are 2 types of UV light that can harm your skin, UVA, and UVB, a broad spectrum simply means – FULL spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both. This is great because UVA rays are more dangerous and tend to sneak up on us since effects aren’t visible right away, as opposed to UVB rays. UVB rays are the culprits for sunburn and play a role in skin aging.
UVA and UVB rays, what’s the difference?
Sunlight uses two types of rays that harm our skin: Short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) and Long wave ultraviolet A (UVA). UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply, to the skins thickest layer while UVB rays are what gives us those dreaded sunburns but don’t penetrate as deep into our skin.
Pay attention to the intensity of UVB rays if you plan on going on a beach day. Sunburns don’t just feel awful, they cause permanent damage to your skin and can cause you to develop skin cancer.
Classic Vs. Mineral Sunscreen?
Classic and Mineral sunscreens differ by the ingredients they use to protect your skin from the sun. Classic sunscreens will use chemically traditional, active ingredients that absorb and dissipate the UVB/UVA rays. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, use minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, to reflect the UVB/UVA rays to protect you.
Is there a difference between sunscreen and sunblock?
These days, sunblock and sunscreen are overall interchangeable. In the past, sunblock used to be heavier while sunscreen was only clear sprays or lighter lotions. Most sunblocks and sunscreens classify themselves as broad spectrum now, for this reason. They both effectively protect you from UVB and UVA radiation!
If you can remember these two things for sun protection, you should be ok.
- Opt for a “Broad Spectrum” sunscreen to get protection from both UVB and UVA
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher
What is your favourite Sunscreen brand? Let us know in the comments!