Sunscreen Savvy: What SPF Level Do You Really Need?

It’s 3 p.m. at the water park and the sun is seriously beating down on your summer fun. You ignore it, though, because you’re in line for the tallest water slide you’ve ever seen, and there’s no chance of giving up your spot in line!

After that highly-anticipated 30 seconds of waterslide bliss, you’ve arrived at the bottom only to notice your beet red, stingy skin. You’re thinking, “But, I put on sunscreen!” Does this sound familiar? Suddenly “SPF 15” isn’t looking so smart.

Do you pay attention to the SPF on your sunscreen? We at Neighborly think you should! Use this guide to choose the best sunscreen for you and your family.

SPF Rating System

With a plethora of options now on the market, the sunscreen aisle can be overwhelming! Don’t worry – we’re here to simplify! When looking at products, consider the two types of rays sunscreen protects you from: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, penetrate glass, and suppress your immune system. UVB rays burn your skin and are responsible for developing skin cancer.

SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and measures the ability of a sunscreen to block mainly UVB rays. SPF also serves as a measure of the time it would take you to burn if you weren’t wearing any protection. Sunscreen comes in a variety of SPF strengths, from as little as SPF 8 to as high as SPF 100! However, some dermatologists say that once you’re above SPF 30 or 40, it doesn’t make much difference. Some say that once you’ve selected something greater than SPF 50, you’re losing valuable UVA protection.

As you might expect, if you’re fair and burn easily, you should choose a higher SPF. If you’re spending more than two hours outdoors, choose an SPF 50+. If you burn minimally, you can probably get by with SPF 15 or 30. A good rule is to choose a sunscreen between SPF 30 and SPF 50.

Regardless of which SPF level you choose, it’s important to apply often and correctly. Your first applications should take place 30 minutes prior to sun exposure with reapplication every two hours.

Types of Sunscreen

Do you have a better grip on SPF? Now, onto types! Check out these sunscreen types and the benefits associated with each.

  • Creams are best for dry skin areas and your face.
  • Gels are best for hairy areas, like your scalp or male chest.
  • Sticks are ideal for use around the eyes and mouth.
  • Spray is great for kids and overall, non-sticky coverage.

Why Should I Care?

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Do you give it the TLC it deserves? In the sizzling summer months, sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Looking for more summertime tips and tricks? Explore the wealth of information available on our Expert Advice page!