Your Guide To SPF
And Other Important Sun Protection Terms
You know the term SPF and a few other sun related terms because of the more recent, active interest in sun protection and the increasing awareness of the hazardous elements of sun exposure.
Likely you can easily connect all the terms below to sun protection, however, the critical aspect of knowing these terms is how they relate to your product choices and sun protection habits.
Make sure you understand these terms well so you can make great product choices, for you and your loved ones, and establish effective sun protection habits.
Sun Protection Terms:
SPF is an an acronym for Sun Protection Factor.
The SPF number noted on a sun screen or other product, determines how many times longer you can stay in the sun without burning, than you could with out it.
With regards to sun protection factor number, 15 provides about a 94 % shield from the sun's UVB rays. To double the number doesn't double your protection. In fact, an SPF of 30 only increases your shield to approximately 97 %. From there, higher spf provide only tiny percentile increases in protection, but you do start to build on the number of ingredients which can possibly irritate your skin.
REMEMBER SPF only addresses UVB rays... those responsible for sunburns, NOT UVA, related to skin cancer....
Most dermatologists recommend an sun protection factor of at least 15 and a sunscreen application of 15-30 minutes before you go out into the sun. It will take this long for chemical block sunscreens to work with your skin and provide protection.
UVR is an acronym for Ultra Violet Rays.
The sun's light is composed of ultraviolet rays. The earth's atmosphere absorbs just about most of the UVC rays, but UVA and UVB are not.
Generally, research indicates that UVA rays are responsible for skin cancer, skin breakdown and wrinkling. Whereas, UVB rays are behind sunburns.
Choose a "broad spectrum " sun screen which protects you against both. There are many seemingly good sunscreens that actually don't.
UV Index is short for Ultraviolet Index.
This is a numeric index ranging from 0 - minimal to 10+ -very high, that measures a given day's exposure to UV radiation. This information is generated by the National Weather Service and Environmental Protection Agency and is often included in media presentation of the weather.
Physical Block Sunscreens act to reflect the suns UV rays.
Physical blocks should contain ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Physical block sunscreen create an immediate barrier between the sun and your skin, reflecting the UVA and UVB rays.
Chemical Block Sunscreens act to absorb the suns UV rays.
Chemical block sunscreens contain ingredients like Parsol 1789, otherwise known as avobenzone. Because of their nature, chemical sunscreens need application approximately 20-30 minutes prior to sun exposure, since they require that time to chemically work with the skin to create the absorbing shield.
HEY! This is important too...
Not all chemical agents are created equal. Some are actually not even photo stable or do not interact well with other chemical agents in their own formulations... TWO newer ingredients that have been shown as safe, actually improve the stability of other chemical sunscreen agents and provide excellent UVA protection are Mexoryl SX and Tinosorb S.
Sun Protection Facts and Tips
The American Academy of Dermatology says regular use of sun screen before the age of 18 is very significant to lowering chance of skin cancer.
Research is showing us that if we wear sun screen with an sun protection factor of 15 regularly prior to the age of 18, the risk of "certain skin cancers" will be reduced by 78%.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is estimated that because children spend a lot of time outdoors, they receive an average of three times as much sun exposure.
Dermatologists recommend that children should wear a minimum *SPF of 15, sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, long-sleeved T-shirts and avoid the mid day sun.
*Higher if that child is fair, with light colored eyes and freckles OR spends a lot of time outdoors.
When choosing a sun screen product, make sure that there is not only a good sun protection factor level, but that it is age appropriate. * Babies 6 months and under require special formulations because of their delicate and sensitive skin, in addition, to protective clothing.
These ingredients are proven to cover the full UVA/ UVB spectrum (not just part of a ray spectrum).
Chemical Block (absorb UVR):
- AVOBENZONE (Parsol 1789)
- ECAMSULE (MEXORYL SX) new!
- BEMOTRIZINOL (TINOSORB S) new!
Physical Block (reflect UVR):
- TITANIUM DIOXIDE
- ZINC OXIDE
For example, if you are very fair and/or have sensitive skin, you may lean towards water resistant sunscreens with physical blocks since they work immediately, stay on better, and are much less likely to irritate your skin.
On the other hand, if your skin is dark, you may opt for a chemical sunscreen since they are transparent and a physical sunblocks on darker skin can be noticeable since they tend to be opaque (although new formulations are more and more transparent).
In addition, we may need a different sunscreen for our face, than the what we use on the rest of our body.
There are a number of great products with ideal formulations. Here are a few that stand out and are backed with both excellent customer feedback and professional reviews.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sx SPF 15
- contains unique organic filter, Mexoryl™ SX, especially effective against short UVA waves
- good broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB
- Parsol 1789 (Avobenzone) helps protect against long UVA rays
- Octocrylene helps protect against UVB rays
- Glycerin moisturizing agent
- Women’s Health 2010 “Expert’s Pick”
- Allure 2009 Best of Beauty “Best Facial Moisturizer for Normal Skin”
- Instyle 2009 Best Beauty Buy “Daytime Moisturizer with SPF”
*Above information from LA ROCHE POSAY U.S. website.
SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense SPF 30
"Optimal for sensitive or traumatized skin and safe for children, Physical UV Defense is a true broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunblock perfect for daily use. This cosmetically elegant, all-physical sunblock contains 5% transparent zinc oxide and 10% titanium dioxide, two non-irritating active ingredients ideal for use on all skin types. Breakthrough dispersion technology minimizes the “whitening” effect commonly found in other all-physical sunscreens by equally distributing reduced sunscreen particles."
SkinCeuticals Daily Sun Defense SPF 20 is a excellent product for daily wear under makeup and again, is good for all skin types.
SkinCeuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 45 is a fantastic reliable sunscreen for outdoor activities since it is water proof and sweat proof.
For Babies 6 Months and older:
Specifically for kids, try Banana Boat Kids Sunblock Lotion, SPF 30 "Banana Boat® Kids sunblock provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection in a gentle, hypo-allergenic, and fragrance-free lotion." It contains titanium dioxide and is waterproof too.
For long term outdoor activities that include swimming try Banana Boat Ultra Sunblock Lotion, SPF 30 with Titanium Dioxide or Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 with Parsol 1789.