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Wondering what is SPF in a sunscreen?

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Know what is spf

Who needs sunscreen? Everyone under the sun. Oh, and did you know there’s no escaping—even on the cloudy days? So, let’s not add sunburn to our list of regrets when we can safely avoid this irreversible damage. What’s an easy way around that? Make a sunscreen with sufficient SPF your handbag essential.


What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. What does it measure? The SPF of a sun protection product determines the level of UVB protection it offers. SPF products are available in various levels, including SPF 15, SPF 30, SPF 50 and more. Here’s how they work:

  • SPF 15 sunscreen filters out around 93% of UVB radiation
  • SPF 30 sunscreen blocks approximately 97% of UVB radiation
  • SPF 50 sunscreen keeps out nearly 98% of UVB radiation

Think about it this way. If you use a sunscreen with SPF 50, it would take you 50 times longer to experience sunburn as compared to without sunscreen. A higher range SPF prevents more damaging UVB rays from penetrating than a lower range SPF can prevent. So, a higher SPF translates to higher sun protection and lesser skin damage.


What level of SPF do you need?

If you spend most of your time indoors and lesser time outdoors, you can safely use a sunscreen that provides an SPF 20 or lower. If you are constantly travelling and are exposed to the sun, we recommend you liberally apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. But, none of this would matter if you forget to re-apply your sunscreen every two hours. Wait, you thought you had to apply sunscreen just once? The answer is an empathetic ‘No’.

Apart from SPF, the other factors that also affect the level of protection include:

  • Your skin type
  • Frequency of sunscreen application
  • Existing weather conditions and environment
  • Amount of perspiration
  • Amount of time spent near any reflective surfaces, such as sand and water

SPF Products to Stay Sun Safe

We know it can get confusing, trying to zero in on the right sunscreen while being spoilt for choices. Don’t worry, we have got you covered. (P.S. Not from the sun, you still have to do that.) We have enlisted a few SPF equipped products categorized based on SPF levels they possess.

1. SPF Below 20

1. The Body Shop Seaweed Oil Control Lotion SPF 15 PA++

Enriched with mineral-rich seaweed from Roaring Water Bay, Ireland, this lightweight lotion hydrates, combats shine and provides UVA/UVB protection while keeping skin uber moisturized. Moreover, it controls excess oil while acting as a daily lotion. PS: If you are a firm advocate of using environment-friendly products, then you have found your SPF soulmate, since it does not contain any synthetic UV radiation filters that can harm marine ecosystems.

Sunscreen with SPF 20 – The Body Shop

Sunscreen with SPF 20 – Aroma Magic

2. Aroma Magic Carrot Sunscreen Lotion SPF 15 UVA/UVB All Natural Mineral Line

This super-light sunscreen lotion is enriched with Carrot seed, Sea Buckthorn and Rice Bran oils. Its non-greasy formula makes it skin-friendly while providing natural sun safety and preventing visible signs of aging. Notes of Lavender, Chamomile and Myrrh essential oils moisturize, soothe and protect skin from damage. Moreover, it includes Zinc Oxide, an ingredient you should look out for in sunscreens, as it’s a natural mineral reflector that scatters harmful rays.

2. SPF 20 – SPF 30

1. VLCC Matte Look SPF 30 Sun Screen Gel Crème

Enriched with a blend of Cermaide III, Saxifraga, Cucumber & Carrot Seed extracts, it helps in de-pigmentation and de-tanning to help achieve a more even-toned skin. The Saxifraga extracts brighten skin and help fade dark spots. Cucumber extracts work as excellent skin soother, hydrator and tan remover. In totality, it offers broad-spectrum protection against the sun's harmful UVA & UVB rays while averting premature aging.

SPF 30 Sunscreen - VLCC
SPF 25 Sunscreen – Kaya

2. Kaya Ultra Light Aquagel Sunscreen SPF 25

Specially formulated for oily and acne prone skin, this gel-based sunscreen does not clog pores, thus reducing the possibility of acne breakouts. It gives a matte finish on application and is extremely light-weight. Apply a pea-size amount on face to reduce exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays and protect yourself against premature aging.

3. SPF 30 – SPF 40

1. La Shield Sunscreen Gel SPF 40

La Shield Sunscreen Gel SPF 40 protects your skin from the harsh sun rays. Fortified with SPF 40 and PA+++, it offers superior broad-spectrum protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Free from preservatives, fragrance, colour additives and alcohol, it saves you from the worry of discomfort and irritation. Embracing a non-greasy formulation, this oil-free SPF 40 sunscreen spreads easily on skin, giving a matte effect. Oh wait, did we tell you it’s water-resistant? Bring on the swimming gear!

SPF 40 Sunscreen – La Shield
SPF 40 Sunscreen – Biotique

2. Biotique Bio Carrot Ultra Soothing Face Lotion 40+ SPF UVA/UVB Sunscreen

Biotique Bio Carrot Ultra Soothing Face Lotion 40+ SPF UVA/UVB Sunscreen is infused with the goodness of pure Carrot Oil, extracts of Carrot Seed and Lodhra Bark, Quince Seed, Bees Wax and Aloe Vera to ensure smooth, moisturized and sun safe skin. Since the sunscreen is developed from Ayurveda with naturally-derived, organically-pure and preservative-free ingredients, think of it as sun safe yet skin safe. Make way for natural!

4. SPF 40 – SPF 50

1. Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 50+

Say goodbye to skin darkening, sunburns and age spots with Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock. This sunscreen has an oil-free formula that feels light on your skin while providing broad-spectrum protection from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Infused with Neutrogena's exclusive Helioplex technology, it gets instantly absorbed into your skin, leaving it soft and smooth. The extremely light yet oil-free formula makes it suitable for all skin types.

Sunscreen SPF 50 - Neutrogena
Sunscreen SPF 50 - Mamaearth

2. Mamaearth Ultra Light India Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ With Turmeric & Carrot Seed

Mamaearth's Ultra-Light India Sunscreen with SPF 50 is specially curated for Indian skin tones. It does not dry out your skin and keeps it moisturized, without making it patchy. The inclusion of natural ingredient, turmeric, treats tan and keeps your skin glowing whereas Orange Oil increases skin's ability to absorb the sunscreen, making it non-oily. Hypoallergenic and pH balanced, this sunscreen SPF 50 is paraben and silicon free. Expect up to six hours of UV protection with this toxic-free sun guard.

Although SPF is a deal-breaker in sun protection strategy, check for a sunscreen that offers protection not just from UVB rays but also UVA rays. UVB rays cause sunburn but, UVA rays cause tanning and premature aging. Make sure you shield your beautiful skin from both.


The Section Where Your Lingering Doubts are Finally Answered

1. Does a high SPF protect against both UVA and UVB rays?

No. SPF products are meant to protect only against UVB rays. This means you will still be exposed to harmful UVA rays that cause tanning and premature aging. To ensure complete protection, prefer a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

2. Do extremely high SPF products mean higher protection?

Higher SPF products only provide marginally better protection but still keep you unsafe from UVA rays. If you correctly use a sunscreen of SPF range between 30 and 50, it can offer adequate protection. Just remember to apply and re-apply.

3. What are the things to consider while choosing a sunscreen?

  • Check for SPF
  • Ensure it is a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum sunscreen
  • Check if it’s water-resistant
  • Check if it’s formulated for your skin type

4. Is SPF 30 enough or should sunscreens of SPF 50 be preferred?

The UVB protection offered by SPF 50 and SPF 30 differs by just 1 percent. A sunscreen of any SPF is adequate if re-applied at regular intervals in adequate quantities. A higher SPF does not mean higher protection.

5. What does ‘Broad-spectrum’ mean?

Broad-spectrum in the label of any sunscreen is as important as SPF. A broad-spectrum or full-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA rays. Normal sunscreens do not provide protection against UVA rays. It is recommended to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

6. What is the minimum SPF that should be used?

SPF 15 is the FDA's minimum recommendation for protection against skin cancer and sunburn, whereas the AAD advises using an SPF 30 or more sunscreen.

7. Is it okay to use an everyday lotion with SPF in it?

Everyday face lotions with SPF are great for your skin and provide protection against incidental sun exposure. If you are planning to spend a significant amount of time in the sun, we advise you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to ensure UVA and UVB protection.

8. How long does SPF 50 last?

A sunscreen's sun protection factor (SPF) stays completely effective for two hours post application. We recommend carrying your sunscreen along with you, so you can re-apply whenever necessary.

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