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The ABCs of SPF

By Terry

By Terry UV Base Sunscreen Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 50


Korres Greek Yoghurt After-Sun Cooling Gel


Shiseido 'Urban Environment' Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42


Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 PA+++


SunnyLife Founta Navagio Towel


Supergoop! Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45

Drunk Elephant

Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

Kate Somerville

UncompliKated SPF 50 Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray


The ABCs of SPF

I burn like it’s nobody’s business.  When the sun is at it’s strongest (10am-3pm) in the summer, I can burn within minutes of being outside.  I’ve taken to slathering myself with sunscreen before placing a toe outdoors.  For the longest time, I relegated myself to the super thick SPF 80 variety.  And to be honest, when I know I’m going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, I stick with the high SPF.  But saying that, I’ve also gotten a little bit more savvy about my sun protection.

Let’s start with some of the science…



UVA stands for Ultraviolet A rays.  These rays penetrate the deepest going down to the dermis - which is the skin’s thickest layer.  Exposure to UVA rays unprotected leads to wrinkling, and premature aging.  It can even lead to suppression of the immune system.  Sunlight has about 500 times more UVA than UVB rays; meaning that nearly 95% of the sun’s radiation that reaches our skin is UVA.  UVA is mostly responsible for giving you that wonderful summer tan, but


Ultraviolet B rays are the wonderful things responsible for every sun worshippers nightmare - sunburns.  UVB rays penetrate the skin’s surface to the epidermis.  The damage these rays cause to the skin, over time, lead to skin cancer including the dreaded malignant melanoma.  In higher altitudes, the UVB exposure is greater (part of the reason you burn while skiing).



SPF quite literally stands for Sun Protection Factor.  SPF is always followed by a number, which lets the wearer know how much longer they’re skin will be protected with the sunscreen than without it.  For example, SPF 15 means the wearer will be protected 15 times longer with the sunscreen than without it.  SPF 15 is the absolute minimum needed to protect against UVB rays.

Broad Spectrum

Broad Spectrum is means exactly what you would think - it covers UVA and UVB rays.  SPF only refers to protection from UVB rays.  In order to be protected not just from sunburns but also wrinkling, you need to wear a sunscreen that’s Broad Spectrum.  The best bet for keeping skin healthy is to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen everyday (better yet with an SPF 30) - even when it’s cloudy out or you plan to stay indoors.


Some Important Points To Note About Sunscreen

In the USA, the FDA only allows for two types of “water resistant” claims – 40 min or 80 min.  That means that the sunscreen will maintain it’s SPF value for those times, in water or while sweating.  This means you will have to reapply to maintain the SPF value.

Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen to cover their entire body.  It takes about an ounce to be fully covered for most people.  Over time the ingredients lose their efficacy and can be washed away with sweat and water.  As a rule, you should reapply every 2 hours at a minimum.

You may never think of putting on sunscreen if your planning on staying indoors, but it’s actually necessary.  UV rays can pass through the windows of homes and cars to damage your skin.  Likewise, the rays can pass through most clothing too.  So it’s always important to apply the sunscreen under clothing, even while inside.

Never disregard the expiration date on sunscreen!  Over time, the efficacy of the UV blocking ingredients deteriorates over time; especially if the bottle is opened or if it’s been in direct sunlight.

Don’t forget the unexpected places.  Your eyelids, lips, scalp, and ears are exposed and need to be protected just like the rest of you.

One of the most difficult problems I have with sunscreen, is on my face.  I want something that works well with my makeup, but also doesn’t irritate my skin or make me break out.  It’s a tall order but there are options.

Under Makeup

Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35.  It’s a weightless, anti-aging sunscreen with Japanese Wild Rose, Loquat Leaf, Licorice and Silk extracts to minimize pores like some of their other priming products.

ByTerry UV-BASE Sunscreen Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Invisible Sunscreen Primer.  Non greasy with a matte finish means that it never effects my makeup, but provides a high level of SPF protection.

Shiseido 42 Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42.  This sunscreen is 40 min water resistant; it controls excess oils and sebum production, while guarding against environmental aggressors.

Over Makeup

Supergoop! Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45.  I may squealed when I found this product.  It’s a setting powder with it’s own brush, and it’s refillable.  So basically it’s doing double duty as a setting powder and sun protection.

Kate Somerville Makeup Setting Spray UncompliKated SPF 50.  Another product pulling double duty; this setting spray is also a broad spectrum SPF 50 in a convenient aerosol can.

All Over Protection

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30.  If I’m being honest, I can’t actually use this product; one of the ingredients is Raspberry Seeds and I’m allergic to those little buggers.  However, I have heard amazing things about it.  I will say I used a family member as a guinea pig for this one and they most definitively approved.

If You Do Burn

Korres After Sun Greek Yoghurt Cooling Gel for Face & Body.  Soothing and cooling, it’ll calm your skin after overdoing it in the sun.

So what did we learn kids?  Protect your skin! Where a hat, apply your sunscreen, and try to avoid the sun at it’s peak so we can all stay cancer and wrinkly free.

SunnyLife Founta Navagio Towel


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