Have you ever wondered just exactly what that sun protection factor (SPF) number is on your sunscreen? The SPF is a multiplier. It tells you how many times longer your skin is protected from the the sun’s UVB radiation compared to the amount of time it takes to burn while not wearing sunscreen. So, for example, if it takes 20 minutes for unprotected skin to start burning, applying an SPF 30 as directed will theoretically keep your skin protected for 600 minutes (30 X 20). With that being said, it is important to reapply sunscreen every 80 minutes when swimming or sweating, and every 2 hours of sun exposure. The reason for reapplication is that the protection can wear off or break down over time and needs to be reapplied to maintain maximum protection.
Dermatologists generally agree it’s a good idea for those with sensitive skin to use sunscreens with higher SPF. As the SPF number increases
the amount of UVB rays that are able to penetrate into the skin decreases. For example, SPF 30 allows roughly 3% of UVB rays to penetrate into the skin, and SPF 50 lets in about 2% of UVB radiation. While you might think 3% of all rays getting into the skin isn’t bad, the reality is that SPF 50 allows 50% less UVB rays to penetrate into your skin as SPF 30.
Unfortunately, some people find SPF products to be a source of irritation to dry, sensitive skin. If that includes you, chances are you are using a chemical sunscreen and should consider checking out a mineral sunscreen that will be gentler on sensitive skin.