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Why is SPF so important?

By Ellie Hummerston

September 02, 2021 • 3 min read

Why is SPF so important?

Over the past few years, it seems that almost everyone is talking about the importance of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays - and with good reason. The American Cancer Society recently found that sunlight is the number one source of UV radiation, which can lead to the most common forms of skin cancer. 

While wearing sunglasses and sun-protective clothing can help protect your skin, the best way to protect yourself from UV rays is to incorporate a product with SPF into your skin routine. 

OK, so what actually is SPF?

SPF (sun protection factor) is the number given to a sunscreen product to describe its protection level. While sunscreen is the product you’re using, SPF is the degree of protection that is offered to your skin. So, if your label says SPF50, that means it would take 50x as long for your skin to burn while you’re wearing it. 

You might also hear the term broad-spectrum SPF. This means that your SPF also protects against UVB and UVA rays. There are two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A, UVA, and short wave ultraviolet B, UVB. SPF not labelled as broad-spectrum only protects from UVB rays. 

Why do I need to wear SPF? 

Firstly, wearing SPF every day significantly lowers your risk of skin cancer - the most common form of cancer in the USA. By applying sunscreen each day, you cut your risk of contracting skin cancers in half.

But, wearing SPF also has benefits for your skin. Sun damage can cause dark spots, discolouration, and collagen breakdown in your skin, which contributes to lines and sagging of the skin. Wearing SPF every day will help you maintain a smoother and more even skin tone.

What SPF should I use?

When selecting a factor of SPF, the first thing you need to consider is your skin tone. If you have fair skin, freckles and moles, then you’re at the highest risk of sun damage. This means that you should aim to use factor 50. 

You should also consider your lifestyle. If you’re someone that can’t live without retinol or acids in your skincare routine, you should also aim to use factor 50. Retinol and acids make our skin more sensitive to harmful rays, so extra protection is essential. 

But, as a general rule of thumb, almost everyone should opt for a minimum of Factor 30, broad-spectrum sunscreen. And, when it comes to sunscreen, the higher the SPF the better - so opt for SPF50 when in doubt. Many people don’t apply enough sunscreen, which can mean that you aren’t getting the full protection of your SPF - for that reason, it’s better to be safe and choose SPF50.

Think you don’t need to wear sunscreen because you have darker skin? Think again. Dark skin is just as susceptible to sun damage, it’s just harder to see on darker skin. You can still burn, and you can still get skin cancer.

Don’t want to wear sunscreen so you can get a sweet tan? Here at Carbon Theory, our favourite kind of tan is bottled. We’re of the opinion that a tan isn’t worth the increased skin ageing and health risks.

But what about vitamin D? You might have heard that sunscreen prevents us from getting enough vitamin D - and technically, it does prevent the skin converting sunlight to vitamin D. And vitamin D is important for lots of health reasons, with deficiency tied to depression, a poor immune system and even back pain. That said, unless you live somewhere really sunny, like the southern US states, you’re probably not going to get enough vitamin D from the sun anyway. Instead, we get the majority of our vitamin D from our food, especially egg yolks, oily fish and fortified cereals.

Do I need to wear SPF every day? 

The short answer? Yes. 

The slightly longer answer, also yes. Ultraviolet A rays, which can cause skin damage, can penetrate both windows and cloud cover. So, while the weather might look overcast or you’re perched in an office most of the day, you might feel that you can skip the sunscreen. But, almost all dermatologists agree that it’s crucial to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, all year round. 

UVA light doesn’t cause tanning or tell-tale signs of sun exposure, so you’re often unaware of just how many harmful rays your skin is exposed to. 

SPF is essential for long-term skin health, and it’s not worth the risk of not wearing it. The best sunscreen for you is one you enjoy wearing, so finding a sunscreen that is weightless, feels good and does good for skin is key. Our Day-Lite SPF50+ is packed full of breakout busting ingredients to protect your skin from the sun AND spots. 

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