You might not dream of stepping outside without having some kind of sunscreen or SPF protection during summer. When you’re shopping for sun protection products, the ones with higher SPF tend to cost more, though. Does a higher SPF offer better protection though? If you’re wondering whether you need more protection from sun exposure, read on to learn more.
What SPF Do I Need?
SPF stands for sun protection factor. Your parents might have told you that SPF 15 was good enough to protect you from skin damage when you were younger. While a broad spectrum SPF 15 gives you some protection from the sun's rays, it may not offer the best protection overall.
While your parents meant well, their advice on using SPF 15 is outdated. It’s time to update your SPF standards, especially now that you're an adult, to prevent skin aging and to protect your skin cells from the UV radiation that can lead to skin cancer.
Keep UVB Rays and UVA Rays at Bay
So what SPF do I need—is SPF 30 enough? To understand why you need more than SPF 15, it helps to know more about UV rays. The sun’s UV rays include UVA rays and UVB rays. More of these UV rays are around compared to 30 years ago, so a lower SPF isn't going to help your skin stay protected.
What do UVA and UVB rays do?
Consider what UVA and UVB rays can do. UVB rays can cause sunburn, while UVA rays can cause premature aging, such as age spots and wrinkles. Both UVA and UVB radiation can raise your risk of skin cancer. You’ll need adequate protection to lower all of these risks. SPF 30 blocks around 97 percent of UVB rays, which is great protection from those rays.
Will SPF 30 protect from UVA and UVB?
What SPF do I need for UVA rays? Sunscreen and other SPF products that give broad spectrum protection work against both UVA rays and UVB rays. Is SPF 30 enough? Yes! At least SPF 30 or another high SPF sunscreen, such as SPF 50, can provide you with a good shield from those harsh rays. Just make sure it’s broad spectrum.
What about skin tone?
What if I have darker skin? Is skin color a factor? While people with lighter skin are at a higher risk of sun damaged skin, those with darker skin still need at least an SPF 30. Otherwise, you’re putting yourself at risk of skin cancer, sunburn, wrinkles, and other kinds of damage from UV rays.
Choosing the Right Sun Protection Factor (SPF) Products
What SPF do I need for different skin types? SPF 30 or higher is best, but keep the following in mind as well:
- Dry skin? Choose a sunscreen with hyaluronic acid or other hydrating ingredients
- Oily skin? The best sunscreen will be non-comedogenic so it won’t clog your pores
- Sensitive skin? Dermatologists recommend physical sunscreen with titanium dioxide or similar ingredients
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens have been connected to the deterioration of coral reefs. To make sure you're getting the sun protection you need while also respecting the environment, use a zinc oxide broad spectrum sunscreen. These types of sunscreens use minerals instead of chemicals to protect your skin from UV light.
Even if you're not swimming in the ocean, use a coral reef safe SPF, as chemical sunscreen washes off in the pool or shower and eventually drains out to the ocean. Mineral sunscreen is also better for you than chemical sunscreen which seeps into your skin.
Expert Tips for Applying Sunscreen
The way you apply sunscreen, whether it’s SPF 30 or SPF 50, can affect how well you’re protected from the sun. Make sure you wear sunscreen on your entire body where skin is exposed. Don’t forget about applying sunscreen to your entire face to stop wrinkles and other sun damage.
A spray sunscreen can be easier to apply and help you protect hard-to-reach places if you don't have a buddy around to apply sunscreen on your back.
Water resistant sunscreen
Water resistant sunscreen is important if you're doing an activity that makes you sweat a lot or if you're hanging out in a pool or other body of water. This helps the sunscreen cling to your skin longer. However, this doesn't mean you don't need to reapply. Make sure to reapply every two hours, or follow the instructions on the sunscreen label.
Don’t Forget to Reapply Sunscreen
SPF products only work for a certain amount of time. You’ll need to reapply sunscreen every two hours at least. You might need to reapply sooner, like when you get out of the pool or if you’ve been sweating a lot. A water resistant sunscreen might stay on better, but you still need to reapply it when you’re outside.
What About Cloudy Days?
What SPF do I need if it’s cloudy out? Is SPF 30 enough on these days? SPF 30 can protect you from the sun, even if you can’t actually see any sunshine. Keep in mind that those UVA sun rays come through clouds, so you still need UVA protection. You should also reapply sunscreen with SPF on cloudy days.
I’ve Got Sunburn. Now What?
If you end up with sunburn, there are plenty of ways to soothe your skin. Applying aloe vera or other soothing creams to sunburned skin can help you feel better. Be careful if you’re sitting near windows at home or in your car. UV rays can pass through window glass, which could make your sunburn worse.
What SPF do I need if I’m sunburned? At least 30 SPF is still best!
Another great way to soothe a sunburn is with a Blissy Silk Pillowcase. These high-quality pillowcases are so soft and smooth that you can count on getting a comfortable night’s sleep. A Blissy Silk Pillowcase helps your skin feel cooler and won’t irritate any sunburned areas.
Other Tips to Keep Skin Cancer at Bay and Prevent Sunburn
Is SPF 30 enough protection? Applying sunscreen with SPF isn’t the only way to protect yourself from sunburns and skin cancer. Put on a pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat outside to keep your eyes and head safe. Wearing sun protective clothing or swimwear can also give you added protection from damaging rays. Limit your time outdoors as well, especially if you’re high risk.
Ready to look for a Blissy Silk Pillowcase? Shop our entire pillowcase selection!
- Heiser, C. (2019, May 11). How to choose the best sunscreen, according to these dermatologists. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-choose-best-sunscreen-according-these-dermatologists-ncna1002451
- Kilikita, J. (2021, July 16). How To Work Out Which Level Of Sun Protection You Should Be Using. Refinery29. https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/sunscreen-factor
- Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide. (n.d.). Save the Reef. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://savethereef.org/about-reef-save-sunscreen.html