All about SPF

Written by: Brielle Kirk, PA-C

Now that summer is approaching, it is so important to apply sunscreen! One of the most important factors in keeping your skin young and healthy is protecting it from the sun’s harmful rays, which can cause premature aging, burns and skin cancer. Avoiding Texas sunlight and staying covered up in the summer months can seem unreasonable and difficult, so what else can we do? Utilize that SPF!
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.

The number stands for the amount of time it would take to burn versus the amount of time it would without any SPF. For example, if you wear an SPF of 30, it will take you 30 times longer to burn than if you had no protection. So, if you would normally burn after 20 min, SPF 30 will protect you for 600 min (or 10 hours). This is in a perfect world, however, and there are a lot of factors affecting the sun’s intensity, such as the time of day and location. Also, if you sweat or do not apply it perfectly, it can have a decreased effect. This is why reapplying every couple of hours is important.  Dermatologists recommend an SPF of 30-50, but the effectiveness after SPF 50 is not that much better. If you have very pale skin or are prone to burning, you may want to consider a higher SPF. Do not get complacent with a higher number, however! Always remember to apply sunscreen, one full ounce, 30 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter. Also considering reapplication if swimming or sweating, even if the sunscreen is waterproof!

So which type of SPF sunscreen should you choose?

Make sure you are selecting “broad spectrum,” which covers both UVA and UVB rays. Also, consider getting “oil-free” and “noncomedogenic” if you have acne-prone skin. Be aware that if you are a makeup lover, the SPF in your foundation will not suffice! You would need to use a lot of foundation to get the full SPF, and could create a mask-like and unnatural appearance. In terms of chemical vs physical sunscreen, it depends! If you want the sunscreen that absorbs quickly into your skin, chemicals would be better. For example, use this if you will be swimming or sweating a lot during the day. If you want a sunscreen that will be less irritating, for sensitive skin, and more moisturizing, a physical sunscreen will be better for you!

Reminder!! Please be sure to take your vitamin D supplementation daily! If you are diligent with applying sunscreen, absorption of vitamin D into your body will be blocked, so supplementation is necessary! I usually recommend starting with a dosage of 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) daily, but please see your medical provider to ensure this is the right dose for you!

Scroll to Top