Sunshine is good for your body, but too much of it can be dangerous. Excessive sun exposure can harm your skin, leading to sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer.

That’s where sunscreen shines! It is your primary defense against these harmful effects. Sunscreen is the most crucial step of your skincare routine. It protects your skin from the sun's scorching UV rays and keeps it healthy.

However, with so many options available, choosing the correct SPF (Sun Protection Factor) can be confusing. Factors like skin type, SPF level, formulation, and activity spectrum play a massive role in the effectiveness of sunscreen.

Don’t worry; we are here to help. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to select the perfect sunscreen for your unique skin needs. We will also discuss other factors influencing your sunscreen choice and some sun-protection tips.

Understanding SPF

To understand what SPF is, you must first understand UVA and UVB. The sun emits two types of UV light.

  • UVA- also called aging rays- penetrates deep and causes wrinkles, discoloration, and premature skin aging.
  • UVB- also called burning rays- are the primary cause of sunburns and skin cancer.

Though both rays affect skin differently, overexposure to both can cause significant damage to your skin.

Now, what is SPF? SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is the measurement of a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB. It tells how long you can stay in the sun without burning compared to not wearing sunscreen.

For example, if you start getting burned within 10 minutes of exposure to the sun, an SPF 30 will increase this time 30 times, so you can stay unharmed for 300 minutes. The higher the number, the greater the protection.

The SPF scale is as follows:

  • SPF 15: Blocks 93% of UVB rays. It is suitable for people with minimal sun exposure or dark skin.
  • SPF 30: Provides up to 97% UVB protection. It is perfect for daily usage and almost all skin types.
  • SPF 50: Blocks 98% of UVB rays. It is recommended for extended exposure to the sun.
  • SPF 70: Offers slightly more protection than SPF 50 (98.5%). It is recommended for skincare prevention.

Dermatologists recommend using SPF 30 to 50 for daily use. The amount of protection you need depends mainly on how long you are out in the sun, how much you sweat, and your activity level.

Remember that no matter the SPF, it wears off in a few hours. So, sunscreen reapplication after every 2-3 hours is key to lasting protection from the sun.

How To Select The Right SPF For Your Skin?

Like any skincare product, your skin type is a major factor in choosing the right SPF. Here is a breakdown of which sunscreen is right for your skin type.

Dry Skin

Opt for sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher formulated with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides. These will protect your skin from sun damage while preventing dryness and irritation.

Oily Skin

Choose lightweight, oil-free sunscreens labeled as "non-comedogenic," meaning they won't clog pores. SPF 30 is generally sufficient for daily use, but if you spend extended time outdoors, consider SPF 50. Opt for mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these tend to feel lighter on oily skin than chemical sunscreens.

Combination Skin

This skin type can have areas of both oiliness (in the T-zone) and dryness (cheeks and neck). Look for a broad-spectrum, oil-free SPF 30 sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Gel-based formulas are a good option for combination skin, providing a lightweight, non-greasy feel.

Sensitive Skin

People with sensitive skin are more prone to irritation from sunscreens. Opt for mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are gentler on the skin. Look for fragrance-free and hypoallergenic formulas to minimize the risk of irritation. Start with a low SPF (SPF 15 or 20) and gradually increase it if your skin tolerates it well.

Additional Factors To Consider When Choosing Sunscreen

Besides your skin type and the specific ingredients it requires, you should also consider the following factors while choosing a sunscreen.

Broad Spectrum

A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. In addition to SPF, such sunscreens have a PA rating, the Protection Grade of UVA.

We have already discussed SPF above. While PA ratings are as follows:


Some UVA protection


Moderate UVA protection


High UVA protection


Extremely High UVA protection

The PA rating system is not universal across different countries and can vary from region to region. However, as long as you choose the higher one, you are sorted.

SPF 30 Or More

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher for daily sun protection. Higher SPF ratings offer marginally more protection, but proper application and reapplication are crucial for optimal protection.

Water Resistant

Water-resistant sunscreens are the ones that stay on the wet skin for a while (around 40 to 80 minutes) before you need to reapply. However, if you are sweating or swimming, you must reapply your sunscreen immediately.

Mineral Vs. Chemical Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens (containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) physically block UV rays sitting on top of the skin. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and convert them to heat, which is then released from the skin. Chemical sunscreens are good for active lifestyle or water activities, while mineral sunscreens are suitable for sensitive skin.

Beyond The SPF: Sun Protection Tips

Choosing the right SPF is vital, but sun protection goes beyond just sunscreen. Here are some additional tips to shield your skin from the sun:

  • Seek Shade: Avoid peak sun hours (10 am to 4 pm). Seek shade whenever possible, relax under an umbrella, and be mindful of the sun's reflection on surfaces like snow, sand, and water.

  • Sun-Protective Clothing: Wear clothing that covers your arms, legs, and torso. Opt for wide-brimmed hats that cover your face, ears, and neck and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

  • Reapplication is Key: Sunscreen wears off over time due to sweating, swimming, and even towel drying. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or more often when sweating or swimming.

  • Don't Forget Your Lips: Choose a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher to protect your lips from sun damage and sunburn.

Key Takeaway

Protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays is essential for everyone, regardless of skin type or age. Understand how SPF ratings work, which ingredients are suitable for your skin, and which SPF formulation suits you better.

This way, you can easily choose a sunscreen that significantly reduces your risk of sun damage and ensures healthy, radiant skin for life. Don’t forget to wear sun-protective clothing and reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours.