Ask Your Esthetician. How high of an SPF should I use?

In the spa, I get this question a lot. The most frequent mistakes I see have less to do with the spf level—which doesn't offer considerably more protection over spf30—and more to do with forgetting to reapply or failing to use a hat as a physical barrier.

I'm wearing my favorite sun hat in this photo. Read on for additional advice.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the level of protection a sunscreen offers against the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

In general, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for daily use. This SPF level can provide adequate protection against about 97% of the sun's UVB rays. Higher SPFs, such as SPF 50 or 50+, can block slightly more UVB rays, but the difference is not significant. It's essential to remember that no sunscreen can provide 100% protection, so additional sun protection measures are also crucial.

Additionally, regardless of the SPF level, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating heavily.

  • Apply generously: Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas of your skin thoroughly. Don't forget commonly missed areas like the ears, back of the neck, and tops of feet.

  • Reapply regularly: Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if you're swimming or sweating.

  • Seek shade: Limit your sun exposure during peak hours (usually between 10 am and 4 pm), when the sun's rays are the strongest.

  • Wear protective clothing: Consider wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses to further protect your skin and eyes from the sun.

  • Use other sun-protective measures: Sunscreen should be just one part of your sun protection routine. Seek shade, wear protective clothing, and avoid tanning beds.

  • Choose water-resistant sunscreen: If you plan to be in the water or sweating, opt for a water-resistant sunscreen to ensure it stays effective longer.

Remember, even on cloudy days, UV rays can still penetrate the clouds and cause skin damage, so don't forget to use sunscreen whenever you're spending time outdoors any time of the year.