The Sunscreen Guide


What Does SPF Mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number helps you determine how long you can be exposed to the sun before burning.

The formula is: Minutes it takes you to burn x SPF number.

In other words, if you burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen, and you apply SPF 15 – you should be able to be in the sun for 150 minutes without burning. However, you’re supposed to reapply every 2 hours. That’s why using SPF 100 is sort of pointless; it’s just over exposure to the chemicals in sunscreen. You’re not going to spend 1000 minutes (over 16 hours!) in the sun without reapplying. For most people, the range should be SPF 15- SPF 50 depending on the day’s activities.


Common Myths:

Wearing sunscreen can cause vitamin D deficiency. Few dermatologists believe wearing sunscreen causes vitamin D deficiency. Also, vitamin D is widely available in the form of dietary supplements and foods such as salmon, eggs, enriched milk, and orange juice.

If it’s cold or cloudy outside, you don’t need sunscreen.
 Up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day. This misperception often leads to the most serious sunburns, because people spend all day outdoors with no protection from the sun.

You get 80% of your sun damage before 18, so it’s too late to do anything about it now.
 If you dropped your cell phone and it got a little crack, would you then take a hammer to it because it’s already damaged? No, probably not. So wear your sunscreen.

If you have darker pigment in your skin, you don’t need to wear SPF. While people with darker pigment are certainly less likely to get a sunburn, they still need to protect themselves from harmful UVA rays that cause aging and the possibility of skin cancers.


What SPF Number Should You Look For:

SPF 15: This is the minimum you should be looking for. It’s fine for day to day activities like grocery shopping, driving, going to work, or a lazy Sunday around the house. You should be wearing at least SPF 15 every single day. UVA rays can penetrate glass, so unless you’ll be spending the day in a lead lined cave, there is no reason to not apply SPF.

SPF 30: If you plan to be outdoors for a picnic, walk, or working in the garden – you need to up your SPF. If you’re going to be in water, or you might be sweating, consider getting something waterproof as well.

SPF 50: This is as high as you need to go. Keep in mind the ingredients that are blocking UV light are chemicals not health products. If you’re going to the beach and are very sun sensitive, you may want to go this high; otherwise SPF 30 will be sufficient.


SPF Ingredients:

You want to choose a sun protection product that is broad spectrum, meaning it will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. The number on the front of the bottle usually only refers to the protection factor from UVB, so you want to be sure you’re getting UBA protection too. UVB’s are the rays that cause burns, where as UVA’s are the rays that lead to aging of the skin. I keep it straight by thinking A for aging and B for burning.


UVA Sunscreen Ingredients

  • Avobenzone
  • Benzophenones (Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzone, Sulisobenzone)
  • Mexoryl SX, also known as Ecamsule
  • Menthyl anthranilate, also known as Meradimate
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Zinc Oxide

Of these, Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX, and Zinc Oxide, provide the most extensive UVA protection.

UVB Sunscreen Ingredients

  • Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Benzophenones (Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzone, Sulisobenzone)
  • Cinnamates (Cinoxate, Octocrylene, Octyl Methoxycinnamate)
  • Menthyl anthranilate, also known as Meradimate
  • Mexoryl SX, also known as Ecamsule
  • Salicylates (Homosalate, Octisalate, Trolamine Salicylate, Octisalate)
  • Padimate 0
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Zinc Oxide

These sunscreen ingredients all provide extensive UVB protection.

Here is a visual breakdown:




There is some concern about chemical sunscreen components. This chart can help you understand the possible effects of the sunscreen you choose:



The Bottom Line:

1. Wear sunscreen every single day. Period.

2. Apply liberally.  1-2 ounces of product for your whole body.

3. Choose a broad spectrum product that will protect from both UVA and UVB with an SPF between 15 and 50.

4. If you want to use a physical instead of a chemical sun protection, look for Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.

5. Buy new sunscreen every year. It does expire!

6. Enjoy some time outdoors!


As always if you have any questions please send them to, and check out the fan page at

See you next week!



  1. I love this post! Too many people don’t understand how important sunscreen is, people who think it’s gross or stinky frustrate me so much!! Great job!

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