A mother putting sunscreen on her son
Healthy Living

What SPF Level of Sunscreen Do I Need?

Jul 12 2022

Summer is here and the sunny days mean lots of outdoor time. However, with that comes an increase in exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Protecting your skin with sunscreen and the right SPF reduces that exposure so you can safely enjoy your time outside. Learn everything you need to know about sunscreen and SPF below.

What does SPF in sunscreen mean?

SPF means sun protection factor. SPF in sunscreen is displayed with a number. The higher the number, the more protection. Sunscreen comes in ranges and is often found in moisturizers as well as some types of makeup.

SPF numbers tell you how much exposure you can have to the sun’s UV rays without burning. However, this exposure time varies depending on our skin type as well as the time of day and year. Since the sun is stronger at different times, you’ll need to apply sunscreen more often in summer months or in the middle of the day.

So, for example, if you are using SPF 30, the SPF number doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun 30 times longer than without sunscreen. It means you’re protected from exposure, which varies at different times. Therefore, use the number as a loose idea of how much protection is offered, but factor in when you’re outside and reapply often.

What is the recommended SPF?

Most experts suggest SPF 15 to 30 for the best protection during normal, everyday activities. Be sure to use enough to thoroughly cover your skin, which is usually about an ounce for full body coverage. Be sure to apply enough as you risk losing SPF if you don’t use enough. Use SPF sunscreen every day for the best protection.

When at the beach where long days swimming with no shade are common, a higher SPF makes sense. Also, if you’re fair skinned, you have less natural protection from the sun and would benefit from higher SPF. Reapply often, especially when you’re sweating or swimming since that will reduce the protection time.

What SPF sunscreen should you use to exercise outside?

When exercising outside, you need to apply sunscreen more often as sweating will lessen the protection. Always use at least SPF 30 and plan on applying before and during your workout. Sport formula sunscreen might help to avoid sunscreen running into your eyes from sweating.

The key takeaway is that sunscreen is a must for everyone, and you need to apply it every day.

In summer months when the sun is stronger, reapply more often and use higher SPF options. Rely on SPF numbers for guidance on protection, but remember that this is a guideline and you should reapply every two hours.

If swimming, apply after you come out of the water and dry off. When using and applying sunscreen, it is better to apply more often than risk a painful sunburn that could lead to more damage later on.

Learn about the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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