What Is SPF? | Sun Protection Factor Explained
If you’re shopping for sunscreen, one of the first things you might notice are the letters “SPF” listed on the bottle. But you might be wondering what exactly it is and what the number next to it means.
If that’s you, you’re in the right place! Here, we’ll address all of your SPF questions, and then we’ll share some safe sunscreen options to best protect your skin.
What Is SPF?
SPF stands for sun (or sunburn) protection factor.
This number tells you how long it takes the sun’s UV rays to burn your skin (or turn red or dark) while wearing sunscreen versus how long it takes the rays to burn your skin without wearing sunscreen.
UVA And UVB Rays
The sun has ultraviolet (UV) rays. These UV rays (or lights) are invisible to us because the wavelengths are a lot shorter than what our eyes can see.
On the UV spectrum, there are three types of rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. Today, we’re only going to focus on UVA and UVB rays because UVC rays don’t reach the earth and can’t burn you.
UVA rays penetrate deep into your skin and are responsible for signs of aging, like wrinkles and fine lines. UVB rays, on the other hand, penetrate the top of your skin and are responsible for sunburn and skin cell damage.
(Too much exposure to any type of UV rays can cause skin cancer!)
It’s important to note that some sunscreens are only tested against UVB rays (since they are what cause your skin to burn, and that’s ultimately what you’re seeking protection from while safely catching some rays).
But you want to be sure that the sunscreen you’re using protects against both UVA and UVB rays, which leads us to our next point: broad-spectrum.
Earlier, we mentioned that the UV rays are on a spectrum and range from UVA and UVB to UVC rays, UVA and UVB being the ones that reach the earth.
Because we know you want to protect your skin not only from sunburn but also from early signs of aging, choose a broad-spectrum (or full-spectrum) sunscreen. This means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50 offers broad-spectrum coverage; plus, it’s made with 100% mineral active ingredients.
(Read our Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: What You Need To Know To Protect Your Family article to find out what all the buzz is about mineral sunscreens!)
Your sunscreen should have a broad-spectrum label to give you the best protection possible against the sun’s rays.
What Does The SPF Number Mean?
Now that you know what “SPF” stands for, you’re probably wondering what the number next to it means. To give you an example, let’s say it takes you 10 minutes to turn red in the sun if you don’t wear any sunscreen.
If you applied an SPF 30 sunscreen, it would take you 30 times longer to burn in the sun than it would if you hadn’t applied anything. So, it would take about 300 minutes (instead of 10) for you to get a sunburn. That’s what the SPF number tells you.
However, this doesn’t mean you can sit in the sun for 300 minutes after applying an SPF 30 sunscreen. You’ll need to fully reapply about every 80 minutes to keep your skin safe while in the sun.
At Babo Botanicals, we offer products in different SPF coverages, like Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen - SPF 50, Daily Sheer Facial Sunscreen SPF 40 - Fragrance Free, and Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30.
As you can see, we offer coverage from SPF 50 to SPF 30, which leads us to our next section: Does a higher SPF give you more coverage?
Is Higher SPF Better?
Lots of people are curious about what the difference is between SPF 100 and SPF 30 and if a higher SPF number actually means more (and better) sun protection.
Ideally, yes. A higher SPF should give you more sun protection. But, realistically, there’s not that much more protection in an SPF 50 sunscreen than in an SPF 100 sunscreen.
The amount of coverage sunscreens provide really depends on the user. Higher SPF numbers often mislead people, creating a false sense of security.
This means that some people who use an SPF 100 sunscreen may not apply as often or correctly because they think the higher SPF gives them better protection, which isn’t the case. Let us explain.
(Remember the invisible lights we mentioned earlier? They are called photons, which are the basic units of all light.)
Back to our explanation:
- If there are 100 photons and you don’t wear any sunscreen, all 100 photons will enter your skin!
- If you wear (and reapply) an SPF 30 sunscreen correctly, only THREE photons enter your skin.
- If you wear (and reapply) an SPF 50 sunscreen correctly, only TWO photons enter your skin.
You can see there’s not that much difference in the coverage.
Also, to debunk a common misconception, an SPF 100 sunscreen does not double the coverage of an SPF 50 sunscreen.
Moral of the story: An SPF 30 sunscreen provides you with adequate sun protection and blocks enough rays to keep you safe while in the sun, and a higher SPF does not necessarily give you more coverage.
The key is correct application and reapplication.
To piggyback off of our previous point, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for any extended outdoor activity.
And it’s not a “one and done” type of deal. Remember that you have to reapply. With our sunscreens, it’s best to reapply every 80 minutes, especially if you’ve been swimming or sweating.
The Babo Botanicals Difference
Unfortunately, not all sunscreens are made the same, and they aren’t foolproof. You can still get a sunburn, especially if you’re not using it correctly or if your sunscreen isn’t made with the right ingredients.
That’s why it’s important to choose a safe sunscreen for you and your family!
We’d like to take a minute to explain what makes our sunscreens different. To start with, our products are non-toxic and made with either natural or organic ingredients.
We use an exclusive Nutri Soothe Complex that contains five certified organic botanicals: calendula, chamomile, watercress, kudzu, and meadowsweet. It’s packed with essential vitamins, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories, which is exactly what your skin needs!
Our sun care products are made with non-nano zinc particles that won’t get absorbed into your bloodstream. Our sunscreens also glide on clear (not white) because we mix jojoba esters with non-nano zinc oxide.
And we offer sun protection for the entire family! Many of our sunscreens can be used by babies and adults.
But if you’re looking for something specific — maybe you have sensitive skin or want a natural tint to your skin — check out these sunscreens:
- Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen - SPF 50
- Daily Sheer Tinted Facial Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 - Natural Glow
As if that wasn’t enough, all of our products are clinically tested hypoallergenic as well as allergy-tested, which is the cherry on top! (Note: We cannot guarantee that an allergic reaction won’t occur.)
Staying Safe In The Sun
To summarize, SPF is the sun protection factor. It tells you how long it takes the rays to burn your skin (or turn red or dark) while wearing sunscreen versus how long it takes the rays to burn your skin without wearing sunscreen.
A higher SPF doesn’t necessarily mean higher (or better) sun protection. Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with at least an SPF 30.
Stay safe in the sun with Babo Botanicals sunscreens. Our sunscreens are made with natural or organic ingredients and are thoroughly tested to best protect you and your family. So choose the one that’s right for you and have fun in the sun!