What SPF Sunscreen Do You Really Need?

It’s 4:00 p.m. at the waterpark and the sun beats down on your fun. But you ignore it because you’re in line for Splish Slash, and there’s no chance of giving your spot up. After the 40-second ride your skin is suddenly beat red and you look regretfully at the 10 SPF bottle of sunscreen in your bag. Sound familiar? We’ve been there too!

As wonderful as summertime activities are, a downside of spending all that time in the blazing sun is unwelcome sunburns. Ranging from barely pink to boiling red, these burns are painful, but can be avoided with the right preparation.

Your friends at Neighborly are here to help you learn all about sunscreen and pick the right kind for your needs this summer.

SPF Rating System

Amidst the sunscreen aisle are hundreds of bottles with numbers and acronyms that get confusing really fast. Basically there are two types of sunrays sunscreen protects: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are the culprit for prematurely aging your skin and are the type that can penetrate glass. UVB rays are the burning rays that cause sunscreen but cannot pass through glass.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, and it measures the ability of a sunscreen to block UVB rays but not UVA rays. SPF is also a measure of the time it would take you to burn if you weren’t wearing any protection.

Sunblock comes in a wide variety of SPF strength, some going all the way up 80 SPF. However, most dermatologists agree that any SPF above 30 or 40 doesn’t make much of a difference.

  • SPF 15 blocks about 94% of the sun’s rays
  • SPF 30 blocks about 97% of the sun's rays
  • SPF 45 blocks about 98% of the sun’s rays

As you can see, although the SPF strengths get much higher than 45, the protection difference won’t be significant to make a substantial difference (especially since most people don’t apply enough to reach that strength).

Whichever SPF you choose, it’s most important to apply often and correctly. About thirty minutes prior to sun exposure, lather up and reapply every two hours, or after getting wet or sweaty. It’s recommended to use about an ounce for your entire body.

Types of Sunscreen

The type of sunscreen you use is just as important as its SPF, as not all sunscreen is best for all skintypes.

  • Creams: are best for dry skin areas and your face.
  • Gels: best for hairy areas, like your scalp or male chest.
  • Sticks: ideal for use around the eyes and mouth.
  • Spray: best for kids (carefully applied)
  • Now that you know the different types of sunscreen and where they are best used, it’s good to know the best sunscreen types and ingredients for all kinds of people.
  • Children: physical sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are best for kids because they are ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Allergy, acne prone skin: use a sunblock without preservatives, fragrances, PABA, oxybenzone or alcohol. These ingredients may cause skin irritation, so look for formulas without them.
  • Dry skin: buy moisturizing sunscreen such as cremes, lotions and oils.
  • History of skin cancer: frequently apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30+.
  • Darker skin: although you may not be able to see the redness, it’s still important to use sunscreen. Find one with chemical ingredients or a broad spectrum option.

OK, but why is it so important?

Sunscreen offers your skin a reprieve from the harshness of the sun’s rays. Sunburns are bad for skin because it’s burning the essential cells of your body’s largest organ.

Although sunburn may turn into a suntan, don’t seek them out and use this advice to save your skin from future damage.

For more summertime tips and tricks, check out more of our Neighborly blogs!