Skin Saver: What the SPF?

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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Sources:,, How Stuff Works,