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What is the highest SPF, and do you need it?

Sunscreen is your best defense against harmful UV rays, and there is so much more to choosing the right sun protection than just picking the one with the highest SPF. Protecting your beautiful skin should be an enjoyable part of your daily routine. Learn more about the sunscreens available on the market and how they protect you. Don't be afraid to try more than one!

The highest SPF available

While you can find SPF 15 on the market, dermatologists recommend you use at least SPF 30 any time you go outside. You may also be able to find sunscreen as high as SPF 100. Sounds like the best bet, right? Not necessarily, and here's why.

Understanding SPF numbers

SPF stands for "sun protection factor." Most people know that sunscreen protects you from UV rays. However, did you know there are two types—UVA and UVB? SPF indicates the level of protection you’ll get from UVB rays, which leave you with uncomfortable sunburns. However, you still need protection from UVA rays, which are known to cause long term skin damage and even cancer.

Thankfully, there are sunscreen options to protect you from both. You just have to know what to look for (not always the highest SPF available) and where to look. The American Academy of Dermatology says:

  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun's harmful UVB rays.
  • SPF 50 blocks 98%.
  • SPF 100 blocks 99%.

However, this isn’t the full picture — given how we move with sunscreen on, we still have to reapply at least every two hours outside, no matter which SPF we’re using. And higher SPF levels may make people feel more complacent about reapplying sunscreen. We believe that choosing any SPF between 30 and 50, that you like the look and feel of — and reapplying consistently — is the best approach.

What to look for in your sunscreen

Here are four main things to consider when shopping for sunscreen:

  • Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection. This protects you against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Choose the SPF level you want. You should always wear at least SPF 30.
  • Be mindful of expiration dates!
  • Avoid any ingredients you know will irritate your skin.

Keep in mind, there’s more than one type of sunscreen available to you. You might not need the same level of protection every day, or you may oscillate between mineral and chemical sunscreens based on your activities or personal preferences. Regardless, always bring your sunscreen with you on days you intend to spend more time in the sun. It’s important to reapply at least every two hours when you’re outdoors. 

How to use it correctly

How you apply sunscreen is just as important as the type you buy. 

Application is everything. A common misconception is that any amount is a good amount, but with sunscreen, more is always better. Apply at least a US quarter-sized amount for your face, and a full shot glass for your body, and rub it in as thoroughly as possible, being gentle near the delicate area around your eyes.

Cover every area of the skin the sun may touch, including the ears and shoulders. If you wear sandals, cover your feet, and don't forget about your hands—they are almost always exposed! Finally, remember to reapply when needed. The label should tell you how long protection will last.

Sun protection for everyone

Who needs protection from the sun? The answer is EVERYONE! Sunscreen is a necessary product for all skin types, though lighter skin has less melanin and is more susceptible to the dangers of UV rays. Men, women, and children over the age of six months should use it any time they are exposed to sunlight, even on a cloudy day.

What about babies under six months old? During the first six months of a baby's life, its skin is highly sensitive and goes through many transitions as it adjusts to life outside the womb. Limiting sun exposure and dressing infants in protective clothing is the best way to keep them safe from harmful UV rays. Always consult your child’s doctor for specific guidance.

Other skin safety tips

Here are some other ways you can keep your skin safe:

  • Reduce the amount of direct sunlight exposure by using an umbrella, hat, or another form of shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves or a beach coverup, when you can.
  • Use your sunglasses to protect the thin, sensitive skin around the eyes and reduce your risk of developing eye problems. Most sunglasses have the technology to block both types of UV rays.

It's never too late to start boosting your sun protection routine.

The highest SPF isn't always necessary

Choosing the right sun protection product for your skin is not always about picking the highest SPF you can find. Your sunscreen should feel great and be an enjoyable part of your everyday skincare routine. You don't have to wade through a long, confusing ingredient list to find something you can trust to protect your body's largest organ. Stay tuned about our upcoming product launches at Clair Obscur for all your sunscreen and sun protection needs.