What Exactly Do SPF Levels Mean?

You’ve probably heard different things – “The SPF number means that’s how many minutes you can stay in the sun before it wears off”, or “You just multiply the level of SPF and that’s how much longer you can stay in the sun for before it wears off”.  These are all common misconceptions, and this is part of the reason why people get dangerous sunburns, and often may not be as protected as they might think.

If you are going to apply and wear sun block (as you should!) to protect your skin from damaging sunrays, then you should learn about SPF to ensure that you are protecting yourself properly.  If you are making the appropriate effort to use sun protection, then you don’t want to find out years from now that you were doing it all wrong, and not actually protecting yourself the way you should have been.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF level of sunscreen allows you to stay out in the sun 15 times longer, before you get sunburn.  For instance, if you would typically start to burn in 20 minutes without sun block, and you wear an SPF 15 sun block, this means that you should be able to stay in the sun for 300 minutes before you start to burn.  The SPF will slow down the sunburn process.

Although SPF is absolutely necessary when you are exposed to the sun, there is a small exception.  SPF does block the healthy Vitamin D, as well as the harmful sunrays, so between the hours of 11am and 2-pm, it is recommended to get 15 minutes of sun exposure without SPF protection in order to receive your healthy dose of Vitamin D.  Typically, most people are at working during this time, but if you are able to sneak in a 15 walk at lunchtime, or sit outside at lunch, this is the ideal time to do so.

If you are unable to get this sun exposure, you can always check with your doctor to see if they recommend that you take a Vitamin D supplement, or you can increase your dietary intake of foods that contain Vitamin D.  Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna contain a high amount of Vitamin D, but it can also be found in foods such as eggs, cheese, milk, cereal, and orange juice.  Vitamin D aids our body in absorbing nutrients, which helps to strengthen bones  and balance calcium. Vitamin D also boosts your immune system, helps regulate blood pressure, and can help to reduce stress and tension.

After your 15 minutes in the sun, apply an SPF product if you plan to continue being out in the sun (even if it is not warm out).  If you are lying out in the sun, or your arms or legs are exposed to the sun, try Dermalogica’s MultiVitamin BodyBlock.  This multitasking sun block really works to take care of your skin, while blocking damaging sunrays.  It instantly hydrates and keeps skin smooth and silky instead of feeling like a greasy sun block.

How much sun exposure do normally get per day? And are you regularly using sunscreen to prevent sunburns?

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