What is SPF and why do I need it?

Most of us know what sunburn feels like – at a minimum, a bit of stinging, some redness, some itchiness. More severe sunburn can result in blistering, more intense pain, and sometimes dizziness, fatigue and nausea. Sunburn is caused specifically by overexposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet, or UV, rays, of which there are three types – UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. And that sunburn can occur after only minimal exposure shows you exactly how powerful the sun can be. While moderate tanning without burning can trigger the production of melanin, which is the skin’s natural defense against overexposure, both sunburn and an increase in melanin are in fact triggered by direct DNA damage.

Again, most of us know this so we take steps to protect ourselves – protective clothing, limiting time in the sun and, of course, sunscreen. But there are so many types of sunscreen out there it can be hard to know what to choose.


Protect against both UVA and UVB rays

A sunscreen, or suncream, works because it absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s UV rays. But many of these products block UVB rays only – the rays that cause sunburn – without blocking UVA rays which can still contribute to causing cancer. So people are increasingly turning to broad-spectrum products that can help to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

We’ve also seen that sunscreens and other products are often labeled with a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, which is reflected as a number and a measure of a product’s ability to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin.

There are a couple of different ways to judge the effectiveness of an SPF factor – according to, the SPF can be judged as a percentage: SPF15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays; SPF30 97 percent; and SPF50 98 percent. While those percentage differences seem small, they make a big difference if you are fair or burn easily. And the SPF can also be used as a measure of the time it would take you to sunburn while not wearing sunscreen, as opposed to the time it takes with sunscreen on. For example – if your skin would burn after 10 minutes in the sun unprotected, applying an SPF15 product theoretically allows you to stay in the sun without burning for 150 minutes – a factor of 15 times longer. But this is always a rough estimate that will change depending on skin type and intensity of the sun.

And remember – none offer 100 percent protection. No matter what product you choose, it should be water resistant, applied liberally 30 minutes before going outside, and reapplied every two hours – more if you are swimming or sweating. Applying once in the morning is not going to last throughout the day.

So what SPF is the best protection?

For the best protection, it is generally recommended to use no less than an SPF of 30 and remember that generally, a very high SPF of 75 is not necessarily going to offer you more protection than an SPF of 50 – in fact, a very high SPF often misleads people into thinking they can apply less often as the product will last longer, which is not the case.

While sunburn is a short-term effect, in the long term too much sun exposure will also cause premature ageing – or photo-ageing, which is ageing of the skin caused by light. Fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, uneven skin tone, loss of elasticity and radiance – all of these are signs of photo-ageing and can start to appear from an early age.

So ideally, you’ll be looking for a product that will protect your skin, keep it hydrated, and fight the signs of ageing all at the same time. There aren’t many products that do this – but pHformula understands the benefits of multifunctional products that do more than just protect you from the sun.


Products that protect you from the sun

pHformula’s UV Protect SPF30+ is a high broad spectrum product – meaning it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays – that helps to prevent DNA damage to the skin by providing superior antioxidant protection, while leaving the skin well hydrated. The inclusion of rosehip oil helps to combat free radicals and the oil’s essential fatty acids improve skin tone and assist in removing redness and irritation.


Essential skin defense

The UV Protect SPF50+ is an essential skin defense product with pHformula’s signature state-of-the-art ingredients and innovative design. This product is for superior protection against UVA and UVB rays that simultaneously reduces any inflammation caused by sunburn. Despite its great strength and protective properties, it is gentle on the skin, prevents dryness, and can be used liberally on your face. Vitamin C, one of nature’s most effective ways of combating photo-ageing, promotes skin repairing and stimulates the skin’s cellular restoration while vitamin E works to protect the skin from environmental pollution, moisturizes and promotes wound healing


Minimize the appearance of imperfections

And if your skin is already showing signs of photo-ageing, pHformula’s multifunctional complexion correcting C.C. SPF 30+ cream instantly minimizes the appearance of imperfections while the SPF blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Retinol works to regulate cellular differentiation and stimulates the synthesis of collagen – which gives skin its elasticity – while rice bran oil keeps your skin hydrated and soft and has anti-ageing properties of its own.


The sun must be respected

Hiding from the sun is not necessarily the answer. It has amazingly beneficial properties, for your health, your mood, and the environment around us. But it is strong and powerful and this must be respected. Some 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV rays – a sobering reminder of the sun’s power. But as they say, knowledge is power – the best protection starts with understanding what the sun can do and what steps you need to take to keep your skin healthy and safe.

Contact your pHformula skin specialist for advise on protecting your skin from the sun.