SPF stands for sun protection factor. This is a measure of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays. Currently, there’s no standard for measuring UVA protection.
Manufacturers calculate SPF based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that’s been treated with the sunscreen as compared with skin that hasn’t been treated with sunscreen. Theoretically, the best sunscreen has the highest SPF number. Many dermatologists recommend using a product with an SPF of 30 or more. However, no one really agrees on a “good” SPF number. A sunscreen with an SPF of 60 might be better than one with an SPF of 30, but not necessarily — and the SPF 60 product isn’t likely to be twice as effective as the SPF 30 product.To understand this, remember how sunscreen is typically used. It might not be applied thoroughly or thickly enough, and it might be perspired away or washed off while swimming. All this can make even the best sunscreen less effective than the SPF number on the bottle would lead you to believe.
What many people do not realize is that the amount of sunscreen applied plays an enormous role. A study in The British Journal of Dermatology this year found that applying less than two ounces over the entire body at one time can leave people with an SPF rating far lower than what is on the bottle. Some studies have shown that people typically apply just 10 percent of the amount recommended.
It is also important to look for sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB radiation. SPF ratings apply only to UVB rays, and some sunscreens provide no protection at all against UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply. For broad protection, look for sunscreens with avobenzone, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, all of which block UVA.
For me, I find a good balance is an SPF 40 or so, but you must make sure you slather on sufficient to get adequate protection. Since you need to put a fair amount on, the one that works best for me, that is not heavy, goes on with a light, silken finish and does not clog my pores nor give me zits would be the Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen High Protection SPF 40, Clarins Sunscreen for Face Wrinkle Control Cream SPF 50+ or the Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion For Face & Body SPF 55. And believe me, I’ve had to trial and error many products before I found these!
Of course, the most ideal situation is to not go out in the sun. Read my post on why, here. Another post on “Showing your skin some Love” here. However, if you still envy the tan your neighbour has, why not opt for a sunless healthy natural tan, which you can sport all year round, regardless of whether you go out in the sun or not. For me, the best in the market at the moment include – Clarins Delectable Self Tanning Mousse and Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel. Other good products products include St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousseand the Body Drench Quick Tan Tanning Mist but you have to get these online. Some of these self-tanners even contain a low SPF of 15 (such as the Clarins) which is an added bonus.