Planning on spending some time in the sun and not sure which sunscreen to choose? In order to find the one that will suit you best, the best place to start is at the numbers written on the side: the Sun Protection Factor (commonly known as the SPF). Knowing and understanding the SPF will help you choose what will help you match your skin type and what you will be exposed to for maximum protection.
So what is the SPF?
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is indicative of the products capacity to block ultraviolet light. As such it is a level of security that communicates the efficacy and duration of possible exposure. It is expressed as a whole number, generally up to 50+, 70, or more according to the country you are in (in the EU, the maximum SPF allowed on a label is 50+). The higher the number, the better the protection.
So how is the SPF number determined?
SPF is determined by dividing the time it takes skin to burn while protected, with the time it takes to burn while unprotected. That is often interpreted as:
“If your skin usually reddens after 10 minutes, applying an SPF 50 will enable you to stay in the sun for 500 minutes (or 8 hours and 20 minutes). 500/10 = 50x times longer in the sun.”
However, that isn’t a perfect interpretation. In real life, many factors must be taken into consideration. Swimming, sweating, rubbing from clothes, etc. all remove sunscreen and reduce efficacy. UV light does not weaken at the same time. That is why it is recommended to apply sunscreen every two hours, after each swim and choose an SPF appropriate for the climate/type of exposure.
Which SPF is best for me?
Everyone is different so it is best to start with what type of skin you have: your Fitzpatrick skin type. It is is a classification system for human skin color and sensitivity to sunburn. There are 6 categories, going from pale-skinned and very sun sensitive to dark skins that do not burn.
High SPF sunscreens are best for those that have sensitive skin/ or anyone exposed to extreme conditions of UV exposure. Indeed, at high altitude or in the tropics, UV radiation is generally the strongest, up to 5x that of daily exposition in low altitude, temperate areas.
People with less sensitive skin can go with lower SPF sunscreens, but still stand a risk of getting burned if they do not use any sunscreen at all.
Laboratoires de Biarritz has a range of sunscreens with high (SPF 30) to very high protection (50+), to offer the best protection for your day to day needs and beyond.