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Understanding SPF: Key Facts to Prevent Sun Damage

Annelise Hillmann • May 31, 2022

How does the sun damage my skin?

Sunlight is made up of many different types of rays. The worst rays for our skin are ultraviolet (UV) rays which come in two types, UVB and UVA.

UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and play the greatest role in causing skin cancers, which can become fatal.

UVA rays are also damaging and dangerous to your skin, penetrating more deeply and contributing to premature skin aging and wrinkles, aka "photoaging".

There are approximately 500 times more UVA rays in sunlight than UVB rays. So, in addition to protecting your skin from the effects of UVB rays with SPF, it's also paramount to shield yourself from the more numerous UVA rays with physical blockers like hats, long sleeves, etc. 

SPF measures protection from UVB rays only.

SPF rating does not tell you how much it protects your skin from UVA rays. UV radiation can always get through to the skin, no matter how high the SPF. No sunscreen will completely prevent sunburn or resulting skin damage.

Dermatologists recommend using SPF 30 or higher.

SPFs higher than 30 don't provide that much more protection. For best results, experts recommend using the proper amount (about one ounce for full body coverage) and reapplying every 2 hours.