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SPF: Facts, Stats, and Debunking Myths

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In the world of skincare, one acronym stands out as a beacon of protection against the sun's harmful rays – Sun Protection Factor or SPF. As we learn about SPF, it's important to separate facts from myths and understand this vital part of our skincare. Come with us as we explore the sunny world of SPF, uncovering the truths that protect our skin and debunking the myths.

Understanding SPF, what is it?

SPF is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to protect your skin from harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. UV radiation can cause sunburn, premature aging, and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

There is a popular misconception that SPF relates to time of solar exposure. For example, many consumers believe that, if they normally get sunburn in one hour, then an SPF 15 sunscreen allows them to stay in the sun 15 hours (i.e., 15 times longer) without getting sunburn. This is not true because SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to amount of solar exposure.

In other words, SPF does not inform consumers about the time that can be spent in the sun without getting sunburn. Rather, SPF is a relative measure of the amount of sunburn protection provided by sunscreens.

SPF protection numbers:

The higher the SPF number, the higher protection it offers. Many sunscreen labels will contain the level category of sun protection offered:

  • Low - SPF 6 - 10
  • Medium - SPF 15 - 25
  • High - SPF 30 - 50
  • Very high - SPF 50+

Here is an idea of how much protection SPF gives you:

  • SPF 2 blocks 50% of UV rays
  • SPF 4 blocks 75% of UV rays
  • SPF 10 blocks 90% of UV rays
  • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV rays
  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of UV rays
  • SPF 50 blocks 98% of UV rays
  • SPF 100 blocks 99% of UV rays

Sunscreen Facts & Stats:

The effectiveness of sunscreen depends on proper application and reapplication. As well as other factors such as skin type, amount of sunscreen used, and activities undertaken while wearing it. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun to let it dry properly. Remember to cover often overlooked areas like the ears, neck, nose, lips, hands, and feet, as they can be sensitive to sun damage.

Even without visible redness or burning, the sun can still harm your skin. Therefore, always apply sunscreen before going outside. Remember to reapply sunscreen regularly, even if it's waterproof or claims to last "once a day."

  • Broad Spectrum Protection: Look for sunscreens labelled as "broad spectrum," indicating protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays contribute to premature aging, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn.
  • Daily Application: Sunscreen is not just for beach days. Daily application, even on cloudy days, helps protect your skin from the cumulative effects of sun exposure.
  • SPF Recommendations: Dermatologists often recommend using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 for everyday use. Higher SPF values may provide additional protection, but the increase is marginal.
  • Water Resistance: When swimming, sweating or towel drying, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. However, it's still crucial to reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or excessive sweating to maintain effectiveness.
  • Amount: For effective protection, adults should apply at least six full teaspoons of sunscreen (approximately the size of a golf ball). Using less than this may reduce the SPF/UVA protection. Children's minimum sunscreen amounts vary based on factors like height and weight. Remember to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it at least every two hours.

Debunking the Myths around SPF:

A lot of myths exist around the subject of sunscreen, here are a few of the most common myths and the reasons they are false.

  • Dark skin doesn't need SPF: While people with darker skin tones have more melanin and natural sun protection, they are not immune to sun damage. Everyone, regardless of their skin colour, should use sunscreen.
  • You don't need SPF on cloudy days: Even on overcast, windy, and cool days, UV rays can still damage your skin. Sun damage occurs from UV rays, which can penetrate clouds, not temperature. Make wearing sunscreen a daily habit for comprehensive protection.
  • Makeup with SPF is enough: While makeup with added SPF is beneficial, it's not always enough on its own. Applying a dedicated sunscreen beneath your makeup ensures adequate protection.
  • SPF lasts all day: Sunscreen effectiveness diminishes over time because of factors like sweating, swimming, or simply wearing off. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if needed.
  • Fake Tan protects skin from the sun: Fake tanning lotion doesn't shield skin from the sun, so you will still need sun protection. Some fake tans claim to have SPF, but this should not be relied on for protection.

As we bask in the warmth of the sun, let's do so responsibly with a shield of SPF. With the facts, stats, and a better grasp of SPF myths, we can choose wisely to protect our skin from the sun. Remember, protecting your skin is a daily commitment. With the right SPF knowledge, you can confidently embrace the sun while keeping your skin healthy and radiant. Visit your local LloydsPharmacy where our experienced team can help you choose the right sun protection for you.