Summer is upon us -- it's time for coolers and grills, shorts, and tank tops. But it's also time to refresh our memory on what to do with SPF.

From what it means to how to use it, this blog covers everything you need to know about our first line of defense against the sun during our time of fun.


SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor."  It is the length of time you can be in the sun without burning

If your skin normally burns after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer).

This is a rough estimate that depends on skin type, intensity of sunlight, and amount of sunscreen used. SPF is actually a measure of protection from amount of UVB exposure and it is not meant to help you determine duration of exposure.

The Most Effective SPF

Selecting an SPF is one of the easiest parts of using SPF. Be on the lookout for SPF that has the “broad spectrum” label on them as they have gone through more testing to protect better against deeper penetrating UVA rays.

Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun's UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun's UVB rays, but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun's UVB rays.

How Do I Use SPF?

Assuming you have a good quality SPF you should use enough to have a thick creamy layer of SPF on your skin. Most people do not use enough SPF, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

To compensate for not using enough, you should aim for an SPF with a higher number.  Physical blockers with zinc are another good option.  Many are now tinted to avoid giving you that pasty white layer.

A good way to take the thinking out of skin safety and reapplying is to set a timer for every 2 hours. That way, you don't accidentally forget and start burning your skin. Remember the rhyme "Redo in Two!"  To get to those hard-to-reach places, it's convenient to have someone help.

The final tip is to not forget to shake it before applying if it's not a thick cream.

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