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The Ins and Outs of SPF

Did you know that the FDA requires all sunscreen products to list the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on their labels? It is a number that gives an indication of how much sunburn protection your skin can get against the harmful UV rays of the sun. SPF is actually a measurement of how well the formula will deflect the UVB rays coming from the sun, preventing them from damaging your skin. The number is calculated for the average user, so the true level of protection varies. 
 
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, but the numbers can be confusing. While you might expect an SPF of 30 to be twice as good as one with an SPF of 15, this isn’t the case. The truth is that an SPF of 15 protects the skin against 93% of the UVB rays coming from the sun, while an SPF of 30 safeguards the skin against 97% of them. Higher SPF numbers are used on products that block a higher percentage of UVB rays
 
Choosing Your Sun Protection Factor
 
A lot of products offer SPF protection on the market. You can buy sunscreen products in lotions, sprays, creams, sticks, and wax. How do you know which one is the right one for you? While you should consider the level of SPF protection that is offered, it is more important to select a product that you are actually going to use. All too often, sunscreens sit in the closet or on the bathroom counter because they aren’t user friendly. 
 
Choosing a formula that you know you are going to use because you like the way it feels or smells is more important than buying a product because of the brand name or SPF number. If you like the idea of a spray sunscreen with a mid-level SPF number, then that is better than choosing a lotion or cream that you don’t think you will enjoy using. 
 
Most people understand that it is important to use sunscreen products to protect the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Full or broad-spectrum protection refers to a product’s ability to safeguard your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. If you plan to go swimming outdoors, it is helpful to choose a waterproof SPF product to prevent sun damage. 
 
Using Sunscreens
 
When you use a product offering SPF protection, it’s important to consider other factors besides the number on the bottle. Most sunscreens suggest you put the product on several minutes before going out into the sun in order to allow your skin to fully absorb it. You must also consider the fact that the sunscreen is going to wash away in the water if it isn’t waterproof, come off onto towels when you dry off, or drip off with your perspiration. Any of these scenarios negate the benefits of wearing the sunscreen product, necessitating reapplication each time any of them occur.
 
Unfortunately, higher SPF products last as long as lower numbers, so they must be reapplied just as frequently. Typically, unless you suspect that your sunscreen has been removed due to sweating, swimming, or toweling, you should reapply it every two hours when outside. 
 
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