How to choose the right sunscreen SPF for your skin

Make sure you reapply sunscreen, especially if you’ll be swimming. Picture: Supplied.

Make sure you reapply sunscreen, especially if you’ll be swimming. Picture: Supplied.

Published Oct 24, 2023


Sunscreen is one of the most important skincare products that should never be skipped in your routine.

It plays a huge role in maintaining healthy skin, especially during the hot season when the skin is more exposed to the sun.

Although many people are open to the idea of using sunscreen on a daily basis, many are still not sure which SPF to use as there are different levels to it.

For example, skincare experts like Mario Correia of Everysun advises people to use a sunscreen that is no less than SPF 30.

“SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of how effectively a sunscreen product can protect your skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun,” says Correia.

To help us better understand SPF, Correia breaks down everything we need to know about it.

  • The sun emits different types of UV radiation, including UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are primarily responsible for causing sunburns, while UVA rays can contribute to skin ageing and may also be linked to skin cancer.
  • When
  • The SPF number you choose indicates how much longer it will take for your skin to start burning, compared to not wearing sunscreen. For example, if you'd normally start to burn after 10 minutes in the sun without protection, using an SPF 30 sunscreen means you can stay in the sun for up to 300 minutes (10 minutes x 30).

He also shares the effect of different SPF levels:

  • SPF 15: Filters out about 93% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 30: Filters out about 97% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 50: Filters out about 98% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 100: Filters out about 99% of UVB rays.

Correia adds that choosing the right SPF level depends on your skin type and how long you plan on being in the sun.

“Knowing about sunscreen and how to choose and apply it, allows you to give your skin the protection it needs. Ask questions and do your research. Remember that sunscreen is just one part of sun protection.

“Consider wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses when you're out in the sun for extended periods,” says Correia.

He adds that once you have chosen the desired SPF sunscreen for your skin type and activity, you need to be considerate of the way in which it is applied to keep you well protected:

  • The first step is to choose a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection, which guards against UVA and UVB rays. This should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before going into the sun.
  • Cover all exposed areas with enough sunscreen, and don’t forget areas such as your ears, neck, top of your feet and the back of your hands.
  • It is recommended to use 30ml or two tablespoons of sunscreen on the average body.
  • Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. However, the effectiveness of your sunscreen diminishes quicker if you are perspiring or swimming. It's important then to reapply sunscreen more frequently, especially if you are around a reflective surface such as water or snow.
  • Be sure to apply sunscreen to your face before applying your make-up, and don’t forget about your lips.
  • Always check your sunscreen’s expiry date. Using sunscreen that has expired will lessen the protection provided to your skin.

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