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SPF Sunscreen Rankings Explained

SPF 15, SPF 30, SPF 45: Seriously, What's the Diff?

The snow is gone and Spring is finally here. The warmth of the sun may feel sweet on your skin, but do remember that those rays can cause premature skin aging and skin cancer. Thank goodness for sunscreen! Shopping for protection from the sun can be more than a bit confusing with SPF ratings that range from 2 to 60.

For starters, SPF stands for sun protection factor, but the numbers don't refer to how long you can spend outside without getting a sunburn, they refer to the amount of UVB protection the product offers. UVB rays were once thought to be the sole type of sun ray that caused skin cancer. Sunscreens with SPF 15 filter out 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 filters out 97 percent. The thing is, wearing a sunscreen with a higher number, such as SPF 45, won't allow you to stay out longer, since the effectiveness of sunscreen decreases over time. Plus if you're active, either swimming or sweating in the sun, the moisture can wash sunscreen away, leaving your skin less protected. So it's a good idea to reapply sunscreen every two hours, just to be sure. Don't wait to see if your skin is turning red before reapplying since a sunburn may take up to 24 hours to appear fully.


Join The Conversation
hillamaria hillamaria 9 years
I'm pretty lucky because even though my natural skin color is extremely pale I rarely get a sunburn. I spent about four hours in the sun on friday and sunday, just with the help of SPF 15. But it's Finland so it's not the sunniest and the most dangerous country when it comes to UV rays, but I still try to use 15-25 every time I go outside in the summer.
MA-cw MA-cw 9 years
Acara, Olay Complete has a built-in SPF 15, and it's good if you have really sensitive skin (like me) because it has no added fragrances. I use it every day and if I'm going to be outside for a while, I use one with a higher SPF. Neutrogena makes good ones, too, although they tend to be a little pricier.
acara1 acara1 9 years
I use SPF on my face daily but do I need SPF on my body daily? I'm a teacher so I am not outside working. If I do need a SPF, what is a good moisturizer?
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I usually wear SPF 50 because I'm really fair and I hate getting burned. Then again, I also don't intentionally tan...I just use sunblock any time I go out in the sun for any extended amount of time.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
I've got medium to dark skin and I use SPF 60 UVA and UVB sunblock not sunscreen. The sunblock leaves a lovely shimmery coat off white titanium all over my skin. I always wear sunblock everyday whether its raining or shining or I'm inside or outside because I am seriously allergic to the sun. Just like my bi-racial mom I have photo-allergic dermatitis.
sassymolassy sassymolassy 9 years
I wear sunscreen on my face every day whether it be in my moisturizer or in my tinted foundation. But the thing I wonder is if you're supposed to reapply every two hours, what about those warm summer days when you're in and out of the office, but you have makeup on? Or, the weekends when you're out shopping, doing errands, etc. You can't really slather a bunch of sunblock over foundation, bronzer and the works without messing it up. Any advice?
emalove emalove 9 years
I just bought Neutrogena Dry Touch SPF 85 the other day at Target...I'm not taking any chances. I've already had skin cancer once.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
SPF is key!
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
I wear Neutrogena's SPF 70 sunblock. I still get a tan, but don't get burned. I just need to find something for my lips now, because my lip balm doesn't have any SPF in it, and the ones that do all taste and feel like crap.
tsp tsp 9 years
interesting about the percentages. i am so frustrated with sunscreens. i feel like i've tried everything and nothing really works THAT great. i spend a lot of time outdoors (i ride horses, so am at the barn for long hours on the weekends during peak daylight hours). i recently upgraded my daily face lotion from one that had spf 15 to one that is spf 30...but i still get burned sometimes. i know that with my skin i should wear long sleeves and a hat nonstop, but when it's hot out, long sleeves are unbearable, and my riding helmet eliminates the possibility for wearing another "hat". grrr. I actually have an appt next week with my dermatologist for something "suspicious"...fingers crossed.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
"one point of these studies is exactly the fact that sunscreen protects from sunburns! and that is partly the reason why people who use sunscreen have a higher risk of getting skin cancer - they feel protected, because of the missing signs of their skin, and therefore spend much more time in the sun than it's good for them." I should probably mention that I really don't go out of my way to get sun and probably wouldn't be in it more just because I'm wearing sunblock. I guess that's probably true for other people though and that would make a lot of sense as to why someone would increase their chances if they stay out more than they would otherwise.
teacherturtle1 teacherturtle1 9 years
i highly recommend a product i just bought. aveeno has a spray on sunscreen. it is awesome. feels cool when spraying on. not greasy as most other lotions and sprays. you can spray it holding the can in any angle even upside down. protects for uva and uvb. the one i have is SPF45. paid about 10 bucks and worth every penny. smells nice too. oh, and i use it when i play tennis in the sun, and it last during my 3 hours of play with one application. :)
smarler smarler 9 years
I'm going to Hawaii in June, and with fair skin and a history of skin cancer in my family, will my normal 45 spf be enough caution?
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I heard that everything over 30 isn't actually any more effective. Then again, I usually wear 15, so I guess it doesn't matter for me anyway.
nancita nancita 9 years
I had only heard that it had to do with how long you could stay out, but I didn't think that sounded right, so this is good to know! Interesting that the percentage protection between SPF 15 and 30 isn't that different.
staticnoise staticnoise 9 years
one point of these studies is exactly the fact that sunscreen protects from sunburns! and that is partly the reason why people who use sunscreen have a higher risk of getting skin cancer - they feel protected, because of the missing signs of their skin, and therefore spend much more time in the sun than it's good for them.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
There's always a study that says something is bad for you then someone says the opposite. I'm wearing sunblock.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
I got a little sunburned this weekend even though I used sunscreen. The worst part is my scalp is sunburned! UGH! i totally hate it. I don't know what else to do besides wear a hat, but I'm not a big fan of hats. I guess I'll have to become a hat-wearer anyway! :)
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
I hate how everything is always bad for us. Whatever everything is going to cause cancer. Wearing sunsceen might, but I know NOT wearing it will. I went to an outdoor all day concert this weekend and reapplied 45 all day long. I didn't get burned and it was over 100 degrees. I don't care, I'm sticking with my 45!!
wednesday_adams wednesday_adams 9 years
I've also heard about the possible carcinogenic properties of sunscreen. This is horrible for me because I'm Nicole Kidman pale. I guess big floppy hats are gonna have to be in this year. :)
Greentea1203 Greentea1203 9 years
I bought SPF 70 yesterday for my trip to Florida and plan on reapplying it constantly.
staticnoise staticnoise 9 years
sunscreen does not protect from skin cancer. on wikipedia, you find in short some study results, that show a possible connection between sunscreen use and malignant melanoma (sadly, the english version of this article is far shorter than the german one.)
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