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A good sunscreen or sunblock lotion, with an appropriate SPF, is an absolute must for those who spend a lot of time in the sun. Many people wonder what SPF really is and which one is suitable for them and their needs.

Importance of sunscreen

Ever since the holes in the ozone layer were found and different studies on skin cancer were performed, medical experts worldwide have been warning against the negative effects of sun exposure. It is now known for certain that there is a direct link between prolonged exposure to UV rays and skin cancer. In addition, too much time spent in the sun can cause skin damage, such as sunburn, freckles, wrinkles and dry skin.

Because of all this, it is very important to protect the skin by using sunblock and sunscreen lotions, oils, creams and sprays. Everyone knows this, but not everyone understands how those products really work and what is the significance of the SPF mark on them.

The purpose of sunscreen or sunblock products is to protect the skin from the damage caused by sun exposure. The damage can range from mild sunburns, characterized by slight redness and burning, which goes away in a day or two, to severe sunburns, in which the skin is heavily damaged, with peeling, blisters and severe pain. These products also provide protection against skin cancer.

Explaining the SPF

SPF is an acronym standing for “sun protection factor”. It contains a number which indicates the level of protection the product provides. The number itself does not mean the amount of time one can spend in the sun without risking sunburns. Instead, the number should be multiplied with a constant. The constant means the time one person can spend without protection from the sun before the skin starts turning red.

If a person’s skin starts turning red in 15 minutes, his or her constant is 15. The time that the person can spend in the sun, with sunblock, is obtained by multiplying the SPF with the constant. If that person uses a sunblock or sunscreen with the SPF of 15, he or she is protected for 15 x 15 = 225 minutes.

This basically means that, before purchasing a sunblock or sunscreen lotion, everyone should find out what their constant is and then decide how much time they want to spend in the sun. The longer the time spent in the sun, the higher the SPF should be.

People with fair skin should always use SPF 30 or higher, no matter how much time they are going to spend at the beach. This is because their constant is probably very low.

Children and babies should use very high SPF, 50 or higher. People who tan easily and who never get sunburned can use lower SPF, from 2 to 15.

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