Choosing the Right Sunscreen: Is a Higher SPF Always Better?

Summer is here and that’s when most of us start purchasing sunscreen. The sun is hot and we’re outdoors more often, meaning we need to protect our skin from harmful UV rays. You might be tempted to use the highest level of SPF you can find, but is that always your best option?

What is SPF?

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is listed as a number and that number represents how long you are able to be in the sun before you start to get sunburn. The higher the number, the longer it should protect you from the sun in ideal conditions. That’s important to note because sweating, the water, your clothing, and other elements can lessen the efficiency and length of time that the sunscreen protects. Let’s say that you are fair skinned and usually start to burn after being in the sun for only 15 minutes. If you apply sunscreen with an SPF of 5, you should be able to be exposed to the sun for roughly an hour and fifteen minutes before you get sunburn. Remember, these are in ideal conditions.

Factors to Consider

When figuring out what SPF to get, consider a couple of factors. What is the shade of your skin tone? Darker or olive skin tones tend to take a little longer to burn than lighter skin and therefore don’t need as high of SPF. If you get red really fast when in the sun, then a higher SPF is just what you need. Also consider if who will be using the sunscreen. There are certain sunscreens made just for kids that contain ingredients that are less likely to irritate the skin.

Choosing the One Best for You

Keep in mind that no matter what number you get, no sunscreen blocks 100% of the UV rays. An SPF 15 blocks out 93% of rays and SPF 30 blocks out 97%. It’s really important to take into account who is using the sunscreen, how fair their skin is, and how easily they typically burn. Then, generously apply it and reapply, reapply, reapply. We can’t stress this enough. People get a false sense of security if they are using a high number SPF but sweat, water play, and other things can lessen the effectiveness.

Remember, the sun is most intense during the hours of 10am and 4pm. Try to stay in the shade if possible during those hours. It also helps to wear sunglasses, a hat with a wide brim, and protective clothing. They have great protective wear on the market now, particularly for children. Follow these tips and you’re sure to have a safe, burn free summer!

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