What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and is used in rating a sunscreen’s level of protection against UVB rays. SPF measures the time it takes for skin to redden under exposure to the sun. For example, a product with SPF 15 extends the skin’s natural protection 15 times, approximately 5 hours instead of 20 minutes.

What is UPF?

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and is used mostly in rating clothing or fabrics. The UPF indicates how much UV radiation is absorbed by the material. Clothing and fabric marketed as sun-protective must have a UPF rating of 15-50+ to qualify. UPF of 30 and higher is recommended.

What are UV Rays?

UV radiation is listed by the government as a known human carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. There are two main UV rays of concern: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are the more penetrating rays that cause photoaging and damage to skin’s underlying structures. UVB are the rays that cause sunburn by damaging the skin surface. Sunscreens and fabrics that block or absorb are essential tools in preventing UV damage.

What can I do to help reduce my risk of skin cancer and sun damage?

Wear sunscreen every day and remember to reapply when needed. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head, ears, and neck from the sun. Wear sunglasses that block UV rays. Avoid tanning beds and tanning lamps. Avoid the sun during its most intense hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

How much sunscreen is enough?

Most experts agree than an SPF of 15 or greater is best. Sunscreen should always be applied to all areas exposed, prior to exposure, so that the sunscreen has time to absorb into the skin. Avoid applying too little sunscreen. One full ounce of sunscreen (approximately a palm full) is needed to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and even more frequently if exposed to water or if excessively sweating, or after toweling off. Use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or grater to protect your lips and remember to reapply.

What about protective clothing?

Average fabrics that are not treated with UV-blocking agents will offer little or no protection when wet. Untreated fabrics that are darker in color or tightly woven will provide the best protection when worn dry. Treated fabrics are available from many clothing designers and contain agents that help block more UV rays. Laundry additive that can be used at home to launder regular clothing can increase the UPF of existing clothing, but may not be for sale for all fabrics.