SPF is a number that’s put on sun protection to tell you how much longer you can stay in the sun than if you weren’t wearing any protection at all. So if you can stay in the sun for 10 minutes without burning, then with a Sun Protection Factor of 15 you will be able to stay in the sun for 150 minutes without burning.
I want to explain these numbers a little bit more and how they come up with them. First you need to know about the UV rays. There are 2 types of UV rays that we get exposed to. One is UVB and that one [causes] more of a surface damage, so the first few layers of the skin get affected by the UVB rays, and these are what cause burns. The UVA rays are not as easy to detect because you don’t get red, but they are doing damage at an even deeper level into your skin, and they can attack collagen and elastin. UVA rays are what actually cause a lot of aging and wrinkles.
Tanning beds are so bad for your skin because they’re mostly UVA rays, and they will just age your skin like nobody’s business. That’s a definite no-no!
I want you to be aware of something. The FDA and the Environmental Working Group suggest that you do not use Sun Protection Factor over 50, and this is why; when they do testing for SPF in the lab, they’re only testing UVB ray exposure because they look at how fast the skin goes red. What companies have learnt to do is put antioxidants and anti-inflammatories into their formulas so that the redness is reversed by these ingredients, and it jacks up the SPF. What’s wrong with that is you are still getting exposed to these rays, you’re just not getting red because it’s being reversed. This is giving a false sense of protection for people; you’re getting a lot more sun than you think you are, because it’s not about redness at this point because there are ingredients that are counter-acting it. This doesn’t mean you’re not getting the harmful rays, your DNA is not being attacked, whatever – it’s still happening. Just be aware of that when you’re using these really high SPFs. My preference is that you use lower SPF and you take care of your skin other ways; you don’t go outside as much, you find shade, you go under an umbrella at the beach, you wear a hat, you wear UV-protective clothing. The 60+, the 50, even, it’s just giving a false sense of security to people, and I really do believe people are damaging their skin and they don’t know any better because it’s not going red when it would usually go red. So keep that in mind and stay protected.