applying your sunscreen

SPF experts explain why you’re applying your sunscreen all wrong! 

Thursday 04th Jul 2024 |

In the confusing world of skincare, one of the most common issues people encounter is the proper application and understanding of sunscreen.

With many myths and misconceptions around SPF (Sun Protection Factor), it’s essential to read about expert advice and scientific explanations in the hope to clarify these misunderstandings. 

The basics of sunscreen and SPF 

SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, serves as a crucial measure of how effective a sunscreen product is in protecting your skin against UV rays. Antony Young, an emeritus professor of experimental photobiology at King’s College London, explains that the number on sunscreen bottles is derived by comparing doses of artificial sunlight needed to cause just perceptible sunburn with and without sunscreen. 

It’s important to note that as the year progresses, the sun climbs higher in the sky, leading to increased UV levels. This dynamic aspect underscores the need for appropriate sunscreen application throughout different seasons. If you’re looking to understand more about how to choose the right protection, you might want to explore products such as SPF 50 + sunscreen to ensure optimal protection based on your exposure levels. 

The numbers associated with SPF ratings can often be confusing. An SPF 30 sunscreen, for example, does not provide twice the protection of an SPF 15 product. Instead, it extends the time you stay protected under direct sun exposure. Essentially, SPF 30 blocks approximately 97% of UVB rays, whereas SPF 15 blocks about 93%. It’s a marginal increase in protection that nevertheless can make a significant difference over prolonged periods outdoors. 

Common mistakes in sunscreen use 

A frequent mistake many individuals make is applying too little sunscreen. Experts recommend using about an ounce of sunscreen — roughly the size of a golf ball — to adequately cover all exposed areas of the body. Anything less can drastically reduce the effectiveness of the SPF factor labeled on the bottle. 

And even if you apply the correct amount, failing to reapply every two hours or after swimming, sweating, or towel drying diminishes the protective effects. Sunscreen breaks down over time, especially when exposed to water or perspiration. Hence, regular reapplication is crucial for maintaining consistent protection. 

Debunking common sunscreen myths 

Numerous myths surround sunscreen usage, contributing to widespread misuse. One prevalent myth is that darker skin tones don’t require sunscreen. While melanin provides some natural protection, it is insufficient to guard against the damaging effects of prolonged UV exposure. Thus, everyone, regardless of skin tone, should use sunscreen. 

Some believe that makeup products with SPF offer adequate protection. However, the amount of SPF present in foundation or concealer is typically minimal compared to standalone sunscreens. Relying solely on makeup products may leave your skin vulnerable to damage. Another misconception is the idea that sunscreen is only necessary during summer months or outdoor activities. In reality, UV rays are present year-round and can reflect off surfaces like snow, increasing exposure levels. Therefore, consistent application is vital no matter the season. 

Properly understanding and utilizing SPF involves a combination of selecting the right type of sunscreen, applying it correctly, and keeping informed about how UV rays interact with our skin. By debunking myths and emphasizing the importance of consistent use, we can better protect our skin from harmful UV radiation. 

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