Did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the human body? Keeping your skin healthy is important – especially during the summer. The sun’s UV (or ultraviolet) rays are the strongest during the summer months. Too much exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and damage your skin. Sunscreen keeps your skin healthy and protects you from harmful UV rays. But not all sunscreen is made equal. SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of how well a sunscreen blocks UV rays. Does a stronger SPF level protect you better? Let’s find out.
SPF and Sun Protection
Our bodies need sun exposure to get enough vitamin D, but overexposure to the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen is designed to block UV rays and its strength is measured by SPF level. The higher the SPF, the more protection from UV rays.
The most common levels of SPFs are 15 and 30, although some products go all the way up to SPF 150. Sunscreen slows the rate that your skin will burn when it’s in the direct sunlight. SPF 15 means it will take 15 times longer for your skin to burn, SPF 30 is 30 times longer and so on. For example, if it takes your skin 10 minutes to burn, using SPF 15 will extend that time to 150 minutes. You may be tempted to buy a higher SPF and only apply it once. However, it doesn’t work that way. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours for maximum protection, regardless of the SPF level.
There is no clear research to show that higher SPFs are more effective. In fact, any SPF over 60 doesn’t offer any more significant protection. In higher SPF sunscreens, the chemicals used are also more concentrated. It is not recommended to use a high SPF sunscreen for people who have a skin condition or sensitive skin.
Most dermatologists recommend SPF 15 or SPF 30 and suggest wearing sunscreen daily. If you are more likely to burn because you have lighter or fairer skin, you should choose SPF 30.
Tips for Sun Safety
- Use sunscreen even in cloudy weather
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Reapply every two hours, more often if swimming or sweating
- Consider other ways to stay protect yourself: wear long, loose clothing, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat
- Stay hydrated