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Whether you consider yourself to be a skin care guru or novice, you likely already know that sun protection is an absolute must. To help keep the effects of sun damage and visible signs of aging at bay, SPF has become an essential for every skin care routine. But while you may be familiar enough with this term to know its association with sunscreen, have you ever wondered what SPF stands for? If so, you’re not alone. We’d wager a guess that more people than you’d think don’t know what SPF means or does. If you’re ready to expand your sun care knowledge, this will be an easy lesson. Keep reading as we breakdown what SPF is.
Let’s cut right to the chase: What does SPF stand for? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), SPF stands for sun protection factor. When you’re cruising down the drugstore aisle, every sunscreen product you see will have a number that’s indicative of its sun protection factor. These numbers also appear on products formulated to help protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays, like foundations and moisturizers with SPF.
The SPF number seen on those products lets you know how much protection they provide. The FDA notes that a higher SPF value indicates that a product provides more sun protection. This remains true up to SPF 50.
Something to keep in mind is that the SPF only tells you that a product protects your skin against certain types of UV rays. Per the FDA, SPF values are based on a test that specifically measures how well skin is protected against sunburns, which are caused by UVB rays.
Editor’s note: Want to learn more about UV rays? Read our article, UVA vs. UVB rays: What's the Difference?
One thing SPF doesn’t mean? It has no relationship to how long you should be outside in the sun! The FDA calls out that it’s a myth that SPF 15 means you can stay in the sun for 15 hours.
You know there are different SPF levels, but which one should you use? Well, the answer can vary depending on several factors.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reveals that SPF 15 filters out 93% of the sun’s UVB rays, while SPF 30 can filter out 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 50 allows filters out about 98%.
Your skin tone can play a role in which level of SPF you want to use. The FDA recommends that everyone use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which will protect against UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF value of 15 or higher. For those with fair skin, they note that you may want to opt for a formula with SPF 30 or 50.
SPF isn’t all that matters when it comes to sun care. Beyond wearing sunscreen with the appropriate level of SPF, you’ll need to reapply (at least every two hours and after swimming or sweating) and take additional sun protection measures. The FDA suggests limiting your amount of time in the sun, seeking shade, and covering up exposed areas in long sleeves, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Besides using sunscreen, you can introduce beauty products with SPF to your routine. Use them as directed, including reapplying, to help protect your skin.
Looking for a way to pare down your skin care routine? This L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Day Moisturizer SPF 30 makes it oh so easy. Formulated with vitamin C, Pro-Retinol, and SPF 30, this moisturizer helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, even out skin tone, and provide sun protection, so you don’t need separate sunscreen and moisturizer steps in your regimen.
Calling all the gents! If you’re ready to take your grooming routine to the next level, the L’Oréal Paris Men Expert Hydra Energetic After Shave Balm won’t disappoint. This offering helps you tackle irritation that comes from shaving and soothes skin from redness, razor burn, and excessive dryness. And thanks to broad-spectrum SPF 15, you can also use it to help protect your skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Call it a win-win!
Can’t resist a flawless base? The L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation, Lightweight, may be your perfect match. This lightweight foundation’s oil absorbers resist sweat, water, and transfer to give you a long-lasting complexion. Non-comedogenic and formulated with SPF, you can’t go wrong with adding this essential to your arsenal.
Simply lathering on SPF may not do the trick to keep your skin protected. The only way to reap all of the benefits is to apply your SPF the right way.
According to the FDA, applying sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside is a must. This allows the sunscreen enough time to protect your skin from sun damage.
Since the sun’s rays can target any area of skin, it’s important that you use enough sunscreen to cover your entire face and body. The FDA shares that most adults and children need at least one ounce of sunscreen to get the job done.
We’ve mentioned this a time or two already, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat: You need to reapply your sunscreen. When you’re having fun in the sun, reapplying your sunscreen may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s a must.
Next: 5 Places You Shouldn’t Forget to Apply Sunscreen
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