No matter what type of beauty products you use, you’ve surely seen products labeled with an SPF. Even before you started wearing makeup, you were probably encouraged to wear sunscreen, which was also labeled with a certain SPF. What exactly is SPF? Should you include it in your makeup routine, or is it something that’s optional? Is a higher SPF always better? Here’s the inside scoop on SPF products.
What Is SPF?
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” and it’s used to describe the way that a particular product blocks out the sun’s damaging rays. The number after the acronym tells you the strength of the protection; it refers to how much longer you can stay in the sun before your skin starts to burn. For example, if it usually takes your skin 10 minutes to start burning, an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer, or 150 minutes.
Is a Higher SPF Always Better?
When browsing SPF products, especially sunscreen, you’ll usually see SPF between 15 and 50. The most common SPF numbers are 15, 30, and 50, although you’ll find numbers in the middle occasionally. Because higher SPF numbers are generally considered to imply a higher amount of skin protection, many people think that the highest SPF is the best, and aim for something even over SPF 50 if possible.
The truth is that anything over SPF 30 isn’t usually any more helpful for people with healthy skin. SPF 30 already provides around 97% protection, and increasing the number doesn’t help much, especially when dermatologists recommend reapplying sunscreen every 90 minutes you spend in the sun, regardless of the SPF. If you have sensitive skin, however, your doctor may recommend SPF 50 or higher to add even that small amount of additional protection.
Is SPF the Only Thing I Need to Protect Myself?
Although SPF is an important part of sun protection, it’s not the only thing you should be doing. SPF protects mostly against UVB rays, and those aren’t the only type of UV rays that cause damage. UVA rays aren’t quite as noticeable; they tend to contribute to premature aging and wrinkles, which means they still cause damage, but that damage takes longer to notice.
If you get an SPF product with “broad spectrum” on the label, that means it protects against UVA rays as well as UVB rays. However, it’s more difficult to block UVA rays, which means that the UVA protection on broad-spectrum SPF products is usually only around 1/3 of the UVB protection.
It’s important to get a broad-spectrum SPF product, but that shouldn’t be where your sun protection ends. You should also stay out of the sun as much as possible, use SPF products that are water-resistant, and apply products liberally. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, consider using an umbrella or a hat to shield yourself from the direct impact.
Do I Need to Include SPF Products in My Makeup Routine?
Some people think of SPF products as being an optional addition to their makeup. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. SPF products should be in your makeup bag at all times. You should be using sunscreen, especially if you’re going swimming or doing a strenuous outdoor activity, but it also means you should build up your SPF protection elsewhere.
You can apply sunscreen underneath your makeup, but it can be bulky, and certain sunscreens may make your skin feel suffocated under the various layers. One of the best ways to introduce SPF into your routine is to use makeup that has SPF integrated into it. Although most makeup used to top out at around SPF 20, new formulas can easily reach SPF 30 and beyond. You can even find lip balms to keep your lips from becoming chapped and burned.
Sun protection is important, whether you’re spending an afternoon at the park or you’re merely going to be in the sun while you walk to the grocery store. For many people, makeup is also important for both of those outings. You can combine the two, so make sure you do both. If you’re interested in learning more about professional skin care and other aspects of beauty, consider an esthetics program at Ogle School, where you can take that interest and turn it into a career.