You must have often come across the acronym SPF while looking for sunscreens. What does SPF stand for? The full form of SPF is the Sun Protection Factor.

Why is SPF important? SPF is one of the most crucial features of sunscreen since it measures how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV rays). These UV rays are dangerous since they can cause sunburn, skin damage, and even skin cancer. Thus, knowing sunscreen’s SPF before you purchase is of paramount importance.

Now that we have a brief understanding of what SPF stands for and what SPF does let us look at the different SPFs on offer. We know that there is a wide variety of sunscreens on offer. Cosmetic stores and e-commerce portals are flooded with brands that make the best sunscreens.

How are these sunscreens different from each other? The primary difference in these sunscreens is the ingredients used to make them. There are zinc-based sunscreens, oil-based sunscreens, etc. Apart from the elements, the SPF of sunscreen can be another differentiating factor.

What do the numbers after the term SPF indicate in sunscreen?

You may have seen sunscreen tubes or bottles on which text such as SPF 15, SPF 30, SPF 50, and the like is inscribed. What do these numbers after the term SPF stand for? The answer is simple. A sunscreen with an SPF 15 protects the skin from 93 percent of the UV rays, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 protects the skin from 97 percent of the UV rays, and a sunscreen with SPF 50 protects the skin from 98 percent of the UV rays.

In other words, an SPF 15 sunscreen allows seven percent of the UV rays to hit your skin, an SPF 30 sunscreen permits three percent of the UV rays to go through, and an SPF 50 sunscreen does not block only two percent of the UV rays from coming in contact with your skin.

Is sunscreen with a high SPF always good?

Selecting a sunscreen, depending on your routine, is essential. For instance, if you are an athlete, who is expected to be outdoors in the sun for longer, sunscreen with a higher SPF is preferred. On the other hand, if your exposure to the sun is only for a limited time during the day, you can opt for a sunscreen with a lower SPF.

Additionally, it is vital to note that not always sunscreens with high SPFs, such as SPF 75 or SPF 100, offer significantly greater protection than SPF 30. The higher numbers could be misleading. Here the catch is protection against different UV rays. Sunscreen usually protects against UVA and UVB rays. It is known that UVA protection should be atleast one-third of the UVB protection. However, in the case of high SPF sunscreens, UVB protection is far greater than UVA, thus offering a false sense of protection.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

We have seen earlier in this article that sunscreen can protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. What is the difference between these two types of UV rays?

UVA rays can cause skin damage that results in tanning, skin aging, wrinkles, and sunburn. On the other hand, UVB rays are more dangerous and can cause sunburn and skin cancer.

Use a good sunscreen with the right SPF for skin protection

Exposure to the burning sun is arguably an inevitable part of our life. Protecting ourselves from the harmful UV rays emitted by the sun thus becomes our duty. For this, applying good sunscreen with the correct SPF is the key. Choose your sunscreen wisely, and do not ignore the SPF of your sunscreen.

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