SPF Skincare Guide: Understanding Protection

When it comes to safeguarding our skin against the ultra-strong UV rays that we have here in Oz, SPF (Sun Protection Factor) isn't just a recommendation - it's a must-have.

Wearing sunscreen daily is a habit best picked up while younger, but it’s not too late to start today! Understanding SPF is akin to giving your skin a shield, not just against immediate burns but also against long-term skin issues like premature ageing, sun damage, and hyperpigmentation. 

Here’s our explainer on why SPF for face matters!

What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures the level of protection sunscreen offers against UVB radiation, the chief culprit behind sunburn and a significant player in potentially leading to skin cancer. 

I know what you’re thinking - what about UVA rays? 

Doesn’t sunscreen protect your skin from those, too? Yes, but to be specific SPF only refers to UVB ray coverage. 

To ensure that you’re using sunscreen that protects from UVA rays as well, there are two things you can look for on the packaging. The first is ‘broad spectrum’. This means that the sunscreen is formulated to cover both spectrums of UV light.

The second way to check if your sunscreen protects from UVA rays is if it has a PA rating. More commonly used in Korean and Japanese skincare, a PA rating is a system that shows how much UVA protection there is. Sunscreens will have a PA rating of PA+ up to PA++++ to show how high the UVA coverage is. 

Types of SPF

From creams to gels, sprays to sticks, SPF comes in various formats, each with its unique benefits. Mineral sunscreens, with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are fantastic for those with sensitive skin. 

However, the drawback is that sometimes these formulas can look visibly chalky on skin. Some brands have worked some real magic to make their mineral sunscreens blend flawlessly into skin, though!

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, offer a seamless blend for those who don’t fancy a white cast. Don’t be afraid of the name ‘chemical sunscreens’ as really, everything is a chemical. 

These different names just refer to the different ways the SPF ingredients work on skin. To put it very simply, mineral sunscreens scatter and reflect UV rays from your skin. Chemical sunscreens absorb them, preventing the effects of the rays from reaching your skin.

Benefits of SPF

The reasons to use products with SPF daily is are more than just preventing sunburn! This misconception is why so many people think they only need to use sunscreen in the summertime, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Wearing SPF daily can make a huge difference to your skin.

First, regular use of SPF can significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer, an incredibly common issue in Australia. It also combats the signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and fine lines, and helps maintain an even skin tone by preventing sunspots and the mottled appearance of photoaging.

Regularly wearing SPF technically saves you money on skincare - it helps to reduce the intensity that dark spots, sun spots, and wrinkles appear on skin, lessening the need for restorative skincare products and treatments in the future!

SPF Skincare Products for Face

For the face, day creams with SPF are a godsend. They multitask by keeping your skin hydrated and protected without the need for multiple layers. Whether you're stepping out for errands or by a window indoors, a dollop of SPF-infused day cream can be your skin's daily companion.

SPF Skincare Products for Body

Your body's skin needs just as much attention as your face. With lightweight lotions and sprays designed for the body, applying SPF can be both quick and comfortable. No more excuses for skipping the sunscreen step before dressing up!

What SPF RatingDo You Need?

The SPF numbers game can be puzzling. The fair-skinned among us may lean towards a higher SPF due to quicker burn rates, while darker skin tones, which naturally have more melanin, might be comfortable with SPF 30 or 50. However, no matter your skin tone, the key is reapplication every two hours or immediately after a swim or sweat session.

Is SPF50 Enough for Me?

For many, SPF50 strikes a comfortable balance between efficacy and ease of use. It blocks about 98% of UVB rays, offering a robust defence for everyday activities. Remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays, and higher SPFs sometimes offer only marginally more protection.

Is SPF70 or SPF100 Good or Bad?

When you venture into the territory of SPF70 or SPF100, you're dealing with highly potent products. They're subject to rigorous testing and regulations, especially by authorities like the TGA. While they offer slightly more protection, the difference isn't as vast as the numbers suggest. 

The critical factor is application quality - no matter the SPF, a thin spread won't do. For the body, a shotglass is the best way to ensure you get enough. For the face, a minimum of ¼ tsp is suggested.

Additional Sun Protection Measures

Consider sunscreen as part of a broader sun protection ensemble. Wear hats, seek shade, and don lightweight, long-sleeved clothing to cover as much skin as possible. Think of SPF as your personal guardian against the sun, but the more guardians you have, the better.

Common Misconceptions and FAQs about SPF

So many of us are under-applying our sunscreen! You'll need about 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen for your face alone. Face neck and ears is approximately ½ teaspoon of sunscreen. It really isn’t the type of product where a little goes a long way - you need to apply enough to get the full effect! 

Another common sunscreen mistake many make is combining sunscreen with foundations. Sunscreens work by forming a filter on the skin. When you mix it with other products, you reduce stability and the formula won’t be guaranteed to work to the standard it’s been tested to. 

The solution? Always apply makeup after sunscreen - never mix them!

Another mistake is not reapplying sunscreen when you need it. Sunscreen isn't a morning-only affair. Reapply regularly to maintain protection levels, especially if you're spending the day outdoors. Many bottles suggest reapplication every 2 hours - this is a good rule to stick to, especially if you are spending lots of time outside in the sun. 

SPF Wrap Up

Regardless of age, SPF is your skin's best friend under the sun. As we embrace the warmer days or simply enjoy a cuppa by the window, let's not forget the silent guardian that is SPF. It's more than a cream; it's peace of mind in a bottle.

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne is a passionate beauty writer with over 10 years of experience. She’s incredibly keen on all things skincare, makeup and cosmetics, with a fingertip on the pulse of the latest global beauty trends at all times.

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