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Everything You Need to Know About SPF and Why You Should Wear it Everyday

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.

You see it everywhere; on skincare products, in commercials, in ads. But what exactly is SPF and why should you be wearing it?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. According to the FDA, SPF is a measure of how much solar energy (in this case UV radiation) is needed to cause a sunburn on protected versus unprotected skin. The higher the number next to SPF, the more protection your skin has from a sunburn.

Applying sunscreen on hand
Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

A common myth about SPF involves how long you can be in the sun when wearing SPF. Many people believe that, if it takes them an hour to get a sunburn, then SPF 15 will extend that time to 15 hours. However, SPF protection varies on the time of day.

For instance, at 9:00 am, SPF 15 will protect you for an hour. But, at 1:00pm, SPF 15 will only protect you for about 15 minutes. This is due to the placement of the sun and the strength of solar energy. It can also vary depending on your geographic location. In New York, the sun isn’t nearly as strong as it is down in Florida. Therefore, it takes less time for someone to get sunburned in Florida than in New York. 

So, with all that being said, why should you be wearing SPF every day? 

Solar energy can cause all types of skin damage. The most common form of skin damage is sunburns, but over time, you may notice other things. For instance, sun spots, or little freckles, form when your skin is damaged. The texture of your skin can change over time. People who have had increased sun exposure tend to have rough, leathery skin when they age. Sun exposure also leads to early aging and wrinkles.

The biggest, and most important, would be skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. This form of cancer is when skin cells grow uncontrollably. This rapid growth is what leads to tumors.

Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the most common and make up 95 percent of skin cancer cases. They are highly curable when treated. 

Melanoma, a term you have probably heard once in your life, is the cause for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. It is made up of abnormal melanocytes, or skin pigments. Left untreated, this form of cancer can spread to organs and cause death. 

So how do you add SPF into your daily routine? It’s easy! There are many daily moisturizers that contain SPF. When looking at face creams, pay attention to whether or not they mention SPF. You can also apply regular sunscreen. Note that sunscreen is most effective when applied liberally. 

SPF is an easy addition to your skin care routine and, down the road, it will save you a lot of time and money on those wrinkles or, worse, cancer treatments.

Hannah Rowe

Hofstra '23

From a small town in Northern Mass to a big city on Long Island, I'm here to share my stories.