What does SPF Mean?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) compares how long you can be in the sun with no sunscreen to how long you can be in the sun with sunscreen and not get burnt. For example, SPF 30 sunscreen means that you can be in the sun 30 times longer without a burn than if you were in the sun without sunscreen. Generally, SPF 30 is more than adequate to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.
In fact, SPF ratings higher than an SPF 30 are more often than not misleading. For example, an SPF 50 sunscreen only protects you from one percent more of the sun’s rays than and SPF 30 sunscreen. And to get this SPF 50 rating, additional chemicals need to be added. You will certainly need to reapply sunscreen a little more with an SPF 30, but if you are concerned about chemicals being absorbed into your body, then there is really no reason to increase your SPF rating above 30.
After the 2012 summer season, consumers will no longer be able to purchase a sunscreens over an SPF of 50. The FDA has determined that there is insufficient evidence to show that sunscreens above SPF 50 actually provide any greater protection.
Waterproof or Water Resistant?
The FDA recently changed many of the regulations regarding sunscreens, which will come into full effect as of 2013. No longer will sunscreen manufacturers be able to claim that their sunscreens are waterproof. Now, companies can only claim that their products are water resistant for a certain amount of time (generally 40 or 80 minutes).
It is important to note that every time you get wet, whether at the beach or in the pool, you should always reapply sunscreen. Some sunscreens will stay on your skin longer, but sunscreen ultimately has limitations.
Should I buy Conventional or a Natural Sunscreen?
Many conventional sunscreens have active ingredients that are hormone disruptors and are considered toxic. Since these conventional sunscreens contain nanoparticles, it means that these chemicals will penetrate your skin and will be absorbed into your bloodstream. Conversely, natural sunscreens have active ingredients that are non-toxic and do not seep into your skin. The long term effects of these chemicals are still somewhat unknown.
In addition to these chemical concerns, natural sunscreens are effective immediately, while conventional sunscreens take 20 to 30 minutes to activate. Also, all natural sunscreens offer broad-spectrum protection from both UVA (cause aging) and UVB rays (cause sunburns). While many chemical sunscreens protect from both UVA and UVB rays, not ALL of these sunscreens do. So, beware and make sure that your sunscreen has broad spectrum protection.
How Much Sunscreen Should I Buy?
If you have expired sunscreen laying around, be sure to throw it away. Over time, the active ingredients in both conventional and natural sunscreens break down, making the sunscreens either less effective or more difficult to apply. With this being the case, you should not purchase more sunscreen than you will need for the summer. Of course, sunscreen should be applied generously to your body, but purchasing too much sunscreen will only mean that it needs to be thrown away next year.