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SPF Facts and Fictions

Revised 7/14/14


I have never been tan, seen a tan or been close to a tan.  So unless all my freckles migrated towards each other creating a mega tan, I am sunglasses and hat girl.  But this didn't stop me from trying. The sun damage we do to our skin before the age of 18 is the damage we are trying to reverse throughout the rest of our lives.  This doesn't mean that we can't do more damage afterwards, but the damage has been set in motion. But don't be discouraged!  There are actions we can take at ANY time that can reverse some of this damage that has been created.


Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreens include ingredients such as zinc oxide (anti-inflammatory) and titanium dioxide, which both sit on the surface of the skin and reflect or scatter ultraviolet radiation before it can reach the epidermis.  In the past, they were much thicker and opaque which is why many people didn't like to use them.  Science has since greatly improved, creating smaller particle sizes that are more costmetically attractive to the consumer.


Chemcial sunscreens are organic substances that absorb harmful ultraviolet rays before they can damage the skin. There is misleading information in the media that lead consumers to believe that these are harmful or sensitizing.  Usually it is the product's base ingredients, rather than the active, that cause the skin to react.

Multiply your SPF # by 10 and that is how many minutes you can go before reapplying.   (i.e. SPF 30x10 = 300 = 5 hours). 

What Number SPF Should I Use?

It doesn't matter if you get your SPF through your foundation/makeup or through a moisturizer, just as a long as you get it somehow.  The SPF is accounted for in the highest number of whichever SPF you have on.  (i.e. if you have an SPF of 30 in your lotion, and a 15 in your foundation - you are only getting the 30, NOT an SPF of 45).

  • Look at the chart to the left to find out what number you should wear. 

  • YES - if you work indoors where there are lights, computer screens and windows, you still need to wear an SPF.  IF you work in dungeon and wear night goggles or are a miner then you may be able to let it slide at times.

  • After age 30 you need an SPF of 30+ is needed.


How Much SPF Should I Use?

According to Leslie Baumann, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Miami, to measure SPF in a lab, the chemist puts two milligrams of the product on every square centimeter of skin.  For you to get the protection equivalient to the SPF number on your production, follow these guidelines:

  • 1/2 teaspoon - entire face (Therefore, 1 8oz bottle of sunscreen should last you two days out in the sun; not the entire summer.)

  • 2 ounces (1 shot gloss) - entire body

  • Apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure; reapply every 2 hours.

  • Check the expiration date of your SPF.  Once it is expires that number goes down and therefore, so does your protection.


                                                                The FDA's new sunscreen regulations go into effect.  Here is a quick-guide on what it all means.


                                                                            SUNSCREEN NOT SUNBLOCK

                                                                            Only the term sunscreen can be used. Sunblock overstates its effectiveness.


                                                                            NO PROOF IN WATERPROOF!

                                                                            "Waterproof" and "sweatproof" can no longer be claimed because they are false.  You will now see                                                                             "water resistant".  This claim must also specify how long the sunscreen can stand up in swimming                                                                             and sweating and you will need to reapply more often.


                                                                            BROAD STROKES FOR ALL FOLKS

                                                                            Broad-spectrum was an unregulated claim.  NOW it means that a sunscreen has gone through                                                                             testing to ensure that it provides protection against UVA AND UVB rays.


                                                                            REDUCE SKIN CANCER

                                                                            Only sunscreens with an SPF 15 or higher and has passed the broad-spectrum test can claim  o                                                                          to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Otherwise, it can only claim to prevent sunburn.




  • Dark skin does need sunscreen.  All skin tones are at risk.  

  • Wearing a hat can help with overhead sun, but remember sun reflects off of surfaces, especially sand and water.

  • Just one blistering sunburn in your childhood or teens doubles your chance of melanoma later in life.   

  • Winter sun, especially in high altitudes is intense. Snow can reflect up to 80% of the sun's rays, while sand reflects up to 15%, and water only 10%.


These products are products that I have used personally and have recommended to my clients over and over again.  They continue to re-purchase them so I know that I am not the only one that uses them.  I am always looking for the best products when it comes to SPF, so if there is something better out there, it will be added to this list.


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