Skin Saver: What the SPF?

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When I walk into the sunscreen aisle I always feel bit overwhelmed. So many numbers, so many acronyms (SPF, UVA, UVB, COTZ, WTF?!), and so not sure what to look for… I figured many of you might feel the same way so I did a little research and put together this simple, no-brainer guide about SPF.

Aside from using retinoid creams and topical antioxidants, sunscreen is the most powerful ammo us girls have against wrinkles and rough skin. While it’s smart to wear sunscreen when you know you’ll be outdoors (beach, shopping, brunching, what have you), it’s still important to wear it everyday, even if you’re going to be indoors–no exceptions. Rain or shine, summer or winter, SPF is a must.

Okay so enough about when to wear it. Let’s talk shop about picking the right SPF and how to wear it.

Most of us would think that the higher the SPF number, the better. Right? Wrong. Without going into too much detail, the SPF number is simply a standard for how long you can tolerate the sun without burning. So if you can stay in the sun for 10 minutes without burning, an SPF of 15 would allow you to spend 150 minutes in the sun before burning. It’s all very confusing. But the bottom line here is that anything over SPF 30 isn’t going to protect your any better. The numbers are based on time spent in the sun, which is why reapplication is essential. Also, for those of you who think that layering on SPF 15 over your SPF 10 will give the protection of SPF 25–think again. Layering does not increase the SPF. I suppose the only benefit is that it ensures that every area is covered. Ideally, you should wear SPF 30 or greater according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Bottom line: Wear SPF 30 with broad-spectrum UVA/ UVB protection. Apply it to your face, neck and hands every single day and smother it onto your body when you are going to be outdoors in the sun.

For more information on SPF, read my blog about which ingredients to look for in a good SPF.

What’s your favorite facial SPF?

XO Lauren

P.S. Fun fact: Sunscreen typically maintains its strength for about 3 years. After that time period, it is less effective. So if your SPF doesn’t have an expiration date, be sure to write it onto the bottle when you get it so you can keep track.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Sources: informationisbeautiful.net, temptalia.com, How Stuff Works, aad.org

Categories: Lauren Conrad, Primp, Skincare
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  • Sarah Heckle

    I always use neutragena on my face — one of the oil-free ones. I’ve read so much conflicting info on what SPF means, so thanks!

    Sarah

    http://tulleandtrinkets.com/2012/06/18/weekend-bits-pieces/

  • Melissa Panici

    Really needed this advice considering I am shopping tonight and SPF is on my list! I knew nothing about SPF so this post really helps! Thanks Lauren!

  • Alba Cuci

    I love that you did this! I use a tinted SPF, and that way I get a 3 in one effect (moisture, coverage, and SPF 30). I apply every morning with a mineral powder and I’m good to go!

  • Olivia Thompson

    I always have trouble when using sunscreen everyday because it makes my face look shiny and greasy and I already have an oily complexion. any ideas? is it ok to put foundation over sunscreen?

  • Charlie Ravens
  • Marielisa Gomez

    Really great tips! I didn’t know that about SPF. I wear it everyday but now I know what I need to know about wearing it!

    Thanks!

    Marielisa

    http://primpandwear.blogspot.com/

  • DMichelle

    Wonderful post! Thank you!

  • Petra Zeller

    Great post. Perfect tips. Thank you for sharing.
    xo, Petra

    http://www.sweetsoflife86.blogspot.com

  • Em

    Dermologica do a really great facial SPF..I’m from Ireland and I always use SPF 50 on my exposed body parts (Boots Soltan)…even when I’m inside.

    I ould love to see an article on retinoids..I’m thinking of going to my doctor to ask to try but I don’t know a whole lot about them.

  • Cassandra Adams

    I seriously need to follow this. I always forget to put SPF on when in the sun and I always end up burned because of it.

    Check out my summer playlist: http://pinkcamoboots.blogspot.com/2012/06/summer-playlist.html

    -Cassandra

  • Madison Montgomery

    Great post! This is definitely motivating me to use some SPF this summer.

    -Madison

    http://www.fearlesslyfashioned.blogspot.com

  • Samantha Marthini

    Thank you so much, I had no idea about what number of SPF to use. I knew it was a shot glass, but not of what kind :) thank you so much, your blogs are always so helpful.

  • Julia Renkert

    I’m a fair skinned redhead, and I love wearing Neutrogena Ulta Sheer liquid on my face under my makeup. It’s non-greesy which feels great! I hate that greesy sunscreen feeling.

    Julia
    http://cupoftea-style.blogspot.com

  • Jennifer M.

    Hey Lauren, thank you so much for this post.

    But I wanted to ask, if I put the sun screen on top of my

    scin care or before?!

    Jenny

  • Stacie

    @Olivia Thompson

    Try a BB cream. I’ve been using on by Garnier that I picked up at WalMart. It really helps control my oil problem, and it has SPF built-in (I think it’s SPF 30).

    Karie Frost posted a good review of BB creams in the forum:

    http://www.laurenconrad.com/forum/thread/favorite-bb-cream

  • Sydney Fortner

    Lauren- great topic!! I’m actually a store manager at a dermatology practice so this is totally up my alley! Hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to add some info :)

    Broad spectrum is very important as it means it will block the UVA and the UVB, not just the UVB as traditional sunscreen does. The best broad spectrum will have zinc listed as an active ingredient, specifically 4% or higher. Just check the active ingredient labels! There are plenty of SPFs out there now that will feel nice and sheer on the skin and not gunky or oily. Dermstore.com is a great place to shop for these or your local dermatologist. My favorite is the Elta suncare line, and it even has different types to choose from (for oily skin, dry skin, tinted, chemical-free, etc)!

    Also, to answer a previous question, SPF should be your last step before makeup. Apply your antioxidants, creams, eye treatments, etc prior to your sunscreen: think of it as your shield.

    Happy Summer!

  • Emily k.

    Thanks, Lauren! I’ve always wondered about the SPF rules…. having the shot glass and almond size markers makes it so easy to remember!

    xoxo
    Emily
    emilyannestyle.com

  • Emily k.

    Thanks, Lauren! I’ve always wondered about the SPF rules…. having the shot glass and almond size markers makes it so easy to remember!

    xoxo
    Emily
    emilyannestyle.com

  • Amanda Lehrke

    My favorite facial moisturizer with SPF is Origins A Perfect World SPF 25 (okay it’s not SPF 30 but it’s still a great moisturizer for the day time!!)

  • Jaclyn Schler

    Thanks for the information! Good tid bit about writing the date on the bottle. :)

    http://www.sharingmysole.com/

  • Taylor Worthey

    Thanks, Lauren! I love Neutrogena for my face and body. But sometimes it, and other suncreens, makes my nail polish sticky? I hate having to redo my nails after putting on suncreen! Any tips on how to avoid this or better sunscreens to use? Thanks!

    xo – Taylor

  • Linh Ly

    I just started using SPF for my face and I have to warn you guys if you use products with SPF and it has alpha hydroxy acid or what not be aware that it might sting or burn your face especially if you have sensitive skin. I recently used a product with that ingredient and it burned!

    http://befashionfit.blogspot.com/

  • Rachael Olear

    My favorite facial sunscreen will have to be Olay Complete with SPF 15!

  • Leanne

    I wear SPF50 every day. Hope it works in the long run! Fingers crossed.

    Love from South Africa

    http://arumlilea.blogspot.com

  • Chelsie Shizuru

    Ole Henricksen Protect the Truth SPF 50+ sunscreen. I love the scent and it never ever feels heavy and is perfect to wear alone or under makeup!

  • Martin M

    SPF50 is my fav! So perfect and a good investment in my look :) Greetings from Germany!! :) XOXO

    http://www.look-scout.blogspot.com

    http://www.look-scout.blogspot.com

  • Beauty Diva
  • Stephanie DiMaggio

    when SPF is above 30 its not really 40 or 50, 30 is the highest.

    http://coutureconfidential.blogspot.com/

  • Liesl

    I always apply an SPF 30 in the morning, and when I go to the beach I’ll reapply often.

    Liesl xxx

    http://www.pretty-random-things.com/

  • Juliana Yumi Myaki

    actually, anything over FPS 50 is worthless and it alsos increases the chances of triggering an allergy. but FPS 30 is actually the minimum you should use if you’re going to expose your body to the sun. on a daily basis you should use FPS 15 at least on your face.

  • Larissa Wilhelm

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m so glad you told us that sunscreen is good for up to 3 years. I’ve been throwing mine out every year, so I’ve basically been wasting my hard earned $.

    http://fitnessmisc.blogspot.com/

  • Kayla Iso

    I usually wear sunscreen by Neutrogena because it’s the same one I’ll put on my face. I like it because it’s not too oily/greasy and I know that it shouldn’t damage my face at all because Neutrogena is known for their face products. It also claims to have the added extras in it too.

  • Rafael Centenera

    \(^_^) //

  • vivi

    so useful information thanks Lauren !!

  • sofis

    For my skin i always use Exuvience daycream that has spf 15 in it already and i also use theirs foundation that also has spf 15. That way you get coverd in all ways :)

  • Ellie Montgemory

    Living on the East coast I can truly say reapplying every hour is a must when in for full day sun expoosure! Don’t worry girls you will still get your color!

    http://www.soyouwannagrow.blogspot.com

  • Emilie

    I don’t go in the sun often (because I work indoors but my everyday moisturiser contains sunscreen which helps prevent damage when I am driving to work and on lunch break etc

    xo Emilie

    PS please check out my latest blog post @ http://www.hungrydelights.com/

  • Jackie Zore

    I have sensitive skin on my face, so I have to be careful with what I use. If I use something inexpensive or from the drugstore, it may cause a breakout. I try to stick with natural, organic, and mineral sunscreens. I have two favorites that I would highly recommend to anyone. The first is by Eminence. It’s a tinted moisturizer with SPF 25. It comes in 3 shades. I have vanilla latte and caramel lattle. Both smell amazing and they contain healing properties for the skin. My other favorite is the Power Me Dry sunscreen by Jane Iredale. It contains SPF 30. Love these products! They are a bit pricey, but totally worth it. They make my skin feel great. = )

  • Carol S

    Banana Boat SPF 30 in the green bottle – best ever!

    http://www.cappuccinoandcream.com

    xoxo

  • sabine ford-arthur

    No matter how much makeup you wear sunscreen is the only thing that can stop those wrinkles!! Thanks Lauren xx

  • Mandy

    Definitely got to buy the Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock. Hey I know it’s for babies but thats the thing, if it’s invented for babies, its got to be good! And you need a good sunscreen especially since it’s summer!!

  • Ann S

    great ! wear sunscreen all the time and render yourself vitamin d deficient !

  • Miri

    With spring on it’s way & summer right behind it this is good to know! I’ve always been an SPF 15 kinda gal. Looks like I need to up it!

  • JillianCW

    I am allergic to an ingredient in most sunscreens but I reccommend Neutrogena sensitive skin face sunscreen if you have any sort of issue when it comes to putting sunscreen on your face. It is a little more pricey than other brands but it doesn’t irritate me at all and works really well. I also recommend baby sunscreen (I buy generic) because it is made for sensitive skin as well.

  • Sofia Alleyne

    Great Explanation of SPF. Thanks!!

    http://discountpleasurecentre.blogspot.com

  • Ami

    My Dermotologist told me everything you said here except one thing may be different…. Yes higher SPF will not protect you better against burns if you only need SPF 30 for your skin tone. However, if like me you have very light skin SPF 50 is what is recommended by my doctor. I also have a lot of skin cancer in my family so he stressed SPF 50 for that reason as well, but that’s just what I’ve been told everyone should consult their own doctor esspecially if your high risk! Also does anyone have any recommendations for a sunscreen that doesn’t have that sticky, oily sunscreen feeling for an everyday body SPF? I found an milky perfect one for my face by la roche posay, but the same company’s body sunscreen feels like very other sunscreen

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