Everything You Need to Know About SPF

Everything You Need to Know About SPF

Two young kids on the beach with a girl putting sunscreen on a boy's face for protection.

Sunscreen is essential to protecting your skin from serious damage caused by the sun. Learning how different SPFs work is essential to receive the most benefits from its ability to provide protection. You’ll learn about the different types of rays that come from the sun and what they do when they hit your body – as well as which type of sunscreen lotion works best for you. 

What is Sunscreen?

Sunscreen, also known as sunblock in some countries, is a skincare product that protects the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The terms “sun protection factor” (SPF) and “sunburn protection factor” (SPF) are often used to describe the effectiveness of sunscreens. Those with higher SPFs provide better protection against skin damage from UVB, but they do not protect completely against UVA—the long-term damage caused by solar radiation.

A good sunscreen should be:

  • Broad-spectrum: This means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Look for ingredients like avobenzone (Parasol 1789), titanium dioxide or zinc oxide if you want full protection from all three types of ultraviolet rays.
  • Water resistant: If you’ll be sweating or swimming while wearing sunscreen then look for products that say they’re waterproof or water resistant.
  • Easy to apply: Sunscreens can be thick and difficult to rub in properly; choose one that feels light on your skin so it doesn’t feel greasy once applied.
  • Easy to carry around: If you’re going on a trip somewhere sunny make sure you have enough sunscreen to last throughout your trip! It’s always better to carry a small container than having none at all.

What are the three different types of rays that come from the sun?

There are three main types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that come from the sun. These are UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVA rays: These rays make up nearly 95% of all solar radiation that reach the Earth’s surface. UVA rays are known to cause premature aging of your skin contributing to wrinkles and overall skin damage. As the longest wavelength, they also penetrate through clouds and glass and make their way deep into your dermis resulting in significant damage is sunscreen is not used appropriately.

UVB rays: Making up 5-10% of solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA, making them responsible for that skin that looks like it’s been “kissed by the sun” (in other words: tan). While able to penetrate through clouds, UVB rays do not make their way through glass. These rays are the culprit for causing malignant melanoma.

UVC rays: With the shortest wavelength, UVC rays are unable to make it through the stratosphere and therefore are stopped by the ozone layer and does not make it to the skin’s surface. Artificial use of UVC rays targets and kill mold and other bacteria as well as purifies the air. UVC rays have the most harmful effect on human skin such as severe burns and eye injuries (photokeratitis).

What are the different SPF sunscreen lotions available?

Sunscreens are available in different SPF (sun protection factor) levels. The higher the number, the more protection it provides from UVB rays. An SPF 30 sunscreen blocks 93% of ultraviolet B rays for a full hour, an SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 97%, and a high-level SPF 100+ should block 100%.

What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

“Sunscreen is used to absorb and scatter sunshine before it can penetrate the skin while sunblock sits on top of our skin and blocks the sun by reflecting the rays,” as to Ashley Magovern, MD, a board-certified dermatologist explains.

When to use/apply?

To get the most protection from your sunscreen, use it at least 15 minutes before going outside. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying sunscreen to dry skin, making sure to cover all surfaces that will be exposed to the sun and reapplying every two hours for continued protection.

Sunscreen should also be applied liberally to all exposed areas of your body and face, including ears (including tops of ears), scalp and neck. This is especially important since these areas are often missed when applying sunscreen because they are not normally exposed to direct sunlight as much as other parts of our bodies.

In addition to covering these areas with a generous amount of sunscreen, you should also make sure that any hats or sunglasses you’re wearing have been treated with UV-blocking agents so that they don’t interfere with its ability to protect your face from harmful solar rays.

Now you have a better understanding of how sunscreen works and the different types of rays that can harm your skin, the next step is to choose the right SPF for your needs. Available in a lotion or spray, It’s important that you use this everyday so remember to apply before heading out into the sun.

At American Online Benefits Group, we offer plans to help protect your health should you become sunburned and require medical attention. Contact us today at 214-389-9072 to learn about the plan that’s right for you.