What SPF Should I Use? Understanding Sunscreen Application and SPF Differences

A woman in a hat and summer clothes sits on the grass, applying sunscreen to her arm with one hand while holding a sunscreen bottle in the other hand.

If you spend any amount of time outdoors, you should be wearing sunscreen. Although this may feel like a bold statement, skin protection is key for sun exposure.

Sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin against UV damage that could lead to future skin problems, such as skin cancer.

With a slew of brands and SPF numbers on the market, it may be hard to decide exactly what type or SPF level to choose from. The truth is that the strength and type of sunscreen you should be using depends on various factors, including your age, skin type and level of daily sun exposure.

Let’s explore SPF factors and sunscreen application goals in further detail.

What Is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor.

It measures how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB rays. These specific sun rays affect the skin’s surface and can lead to sunburn, damaged skin cells or more severe conditions such as skin cancer.

Sunscreen Types

As you browse store shelves, you’ll quickly notice various types of sunscreen options available in varying ranges of SPF.

The most common types include

  • Sport
  • Waterproof or Water Resistant
  • Spray
  • Balm
  • Facial-Specific
  • Broad Spectrum
  • Babies and Kids
  • All-Natural

The most important factor when choosing the option that is right for you and your family is the amount of SPF coverage.

What Number of SPF should I use?

SPF comes in a wide variety of strengths that aid in protecting your skin for a certain period of time.

You can find sunscreens that range from 5 SPF to 100 SPF or higher at any given time.

Although the market includes heightened amounts of SPF, anything over SPF 30 provides relatively the same amount of coverage, so it is recommended that you opt for at least an SPF 15 but do not have to exceed anything over SPF 30.

Here’s a look at the coverage amounts:

• SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays

• SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays

• SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays.

How Is SPF Calculated?

Let’s take the SPF 15 as our example to determine coverage.

If your skin normally burns in the sun after 10 minutes of exposure, an SPF of 15 would provide 150 minutes, or 15 times, of protection in the same environment. It is important to note that this is an estimate, and the exact amount of protection time depends on skin type, level of exposure, and intensity of UVA and UVB rays.

The same calculation is true for each level of SPF. So, SPF 30 would provide 30x the coverage amount and so on.

Although most people use SPF to gauge the amount of time they can spend in the sun before re-application, SPF should be used more to gauge the overall measure of protection to ensure the skin is as protected as possible.

Adequate Sunscreen Coverage Is Vital.

Most people do not apply enough sunscreen.

The proper amount of sunscreen for all ages is about one ounce per full-body coverage or 2mg/cm2 of skin.

It is important to note that reapplying is just as important as initial coverage. You should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Consider applying more often if you sweat a lot or spend time in the water.

Burn Care You Can Count On

If you’ve experienced a severe sunburn or any other type of burn, you should visit Amory Urgent Care for further evaluation. We are open seven days a week for all your urgent health needs. Don’t delay treatment; just walk in and get seen today.