Consider this your Supergoop! guide to all things SPF.
Have a question about when to reapply? Still not sure what “blue light” is, and too afraid to ask at this point? We’ve got you covered. Scroll for fast facts about SPF and skin safety, definitions of trending terms, answers to all of your SPF FAQs and so much more.
- 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer over the course of their lifetime.
- 90% of all skin cancers, including melanoma, are directly related to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun
- 5% to 10% of skin cancer is found around the eyes
- 90% of the signs of aging are caused by daily sun exposure
- Daily sunscreen use can reduce your risk of developing melanoma by up to 50%
- Most people only use one third to half of the sunscreen they’re supposed to! The trick is applying generously: At least 1/4 teaspoon for face and at least 1 oz (enough to fill a shot glass) for body
- UV radiation exposure increases 4% to 5% with every 1,000 feet you climb in altitude (whether you’re on a plane or hiking in the mountains!)
- 2 hours is the recommended amount of time you should wait before reapplying SPF
- Up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays reach the earth, even on cloudy days
- SPF 30 to 50 is optimal for everyday skin protection
- The #1 thing you can do for your skin: Wear SPF!
Statistics provided by the Melanoma Research Alliance, The Skin Cancer Foundation and “Application of sunscreen preparations: a need to change the regulations“.
SPF: Sun Protection Factor, which is the measure of protection from the sun’s UVB (burning) rays
SPF 30: The minimum amount of daily SPF protection you should be wearing; it helps protect your skin from 97% of UVB rays
SPF 50: The maximum amount of daily SPF protection you should be wearing; it helps protect your skin from 98% of UVB rays
SPF >50: Anything over SPF 50 won’t protect your skin from that much more of the sun’s rays and may give a false sense of all-day protection, plus it can expose the skin to a much higher concentration of active ingredients than necessary
Broad spectrum: An SPF labeled “broad spectrum” protects against both UVA and UVB rays; all of our SPFs have broad spectrum protection
UV radiation: Invisible rays that come from the light emitted by the sun as well as man-made objects (like tanning beds) that can cause skin damage
UV index: A numbered scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (extremely high) that measures the expected risk of overexposure to the sun’s UV rays — and it has nothing to do with the temperature!
UVA rays: Also known as ultraviolet aging rays, these are the rays that shine all year round, even through clouds and windows; they can penetrate your skin more deeply and cause your skin cells to age prematurely as well as cause skin cancer
UVB rays: Also known as ultraviolet burning rays, these are the rays that are typically associated with the beach; they penetrate the outer layer of your skin and can damage your DNA, causing inflammation, sunburns and skin cancer
Blue light: Also known as high energy visible light, this is the light that comes from things like your cell phone or computer (and the sun, too!) and causes skin damage like hyperpigmentation and dark spots; our SPFs with blue light protection help shield your skin to avoid dullness, wrinkles and age spots
Pollution: Environmental aggressors that can aggravate skin conditions and damage the skin through different mechanisms; our SPFs with pollution protection help act as a barrier against these aggressors
Infrared radiation: A type of energy that you can’t see with your eyes but you can feel in the form of heat; it comes from the sun and other devices that we encounter daily (like hair dryers) and can lead to skin dehydration and tissue damage; our SPFs with infrared protection help to shield your skin from potential infrared damage
Sunburn: The skin’s visible reaction (in the form of redness or tanning) to extreme ultraviolet exposure indicating that damage has been done; the easiest way to avoid sunburn is to wear SPF!
Sun damage: What happens to your skin when it goes unprotected from the spectrum of light (UVA rays, UVB rays, blue light and IRA); it typically refers to signs of aging and/or skin cancer
Epidermis: The outermost layer of your skin, where things like sunburns and signs of aging are seen
Vitamin C: A powerhouse ingredient that helps to visibly brighten skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots; it burns off and becomes ineffective when exposed to sunlight, so pairing Vitamin C with an SPF allows your skin to reap the ingredient’s full benefits while also helping to prevent the two main causes of dark spots: UV & blue light
Vitamin D: A vitamin that helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body; contrary to popular belief, vitamin D can be obtained from many other sources in addition to the sun (like your diet!), and you will always be able to soak up some level of vitamin D from the sun while wearing SPF
Hyperpigmentation: A skin condition identified by darker patches of skin that are mainly caused and/or made worse by sun exposure; melasma and sun spots are types of hyperpigmentation; ingredients such as Vitamin C can help reduce the appearance of these dark spots
Eczema: A condition that makes your skin dry, red and itchy; it’s common in children but can occur at any age; mineral SPFs are ideal for those with this condition, as they are formulated with ingredients that are less irritating and sit on top of the skin; for kiddos with eczema, try our pediatrician-tested Sunnyscreen that’s specially formulated for babies and toddlers
Melanoma: The deadliest form of skin cancer, and one of the most common cancers in the United States — among the top 10 causes of new cancer cases; about 1 in 50 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime; you can dramatically reduce your risk by applying and reapplying SPF daily
Mineral SPF: Also known as “physical” SPF, mineral sunscreen contains 100% mineral actives, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, that sit atop the skin; they absorb ~95% of UV rays and reflect back ~5% of UV rays; mineral SPFs are usually best for people with sensitive skin, and although they often look like a thicker white paste, some mineral SPFs (like Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30!) can blend into skin with a sheer finish
Chemical SPF: A type of sunscreen that is made of synthetic (organic) ingredients and works by absorbing UV rays and turning them into heat; they can be formulated to be completely invisible (like Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40), and are a safe and effective way to protect skin
Water- and sweat-resistant SPF: Sunscreens that retain their stated SPF value after a certain time (either 40 or 80 minutes) in water or while sweating; these SPFs are ideal for active days; if an SPF is labeled as water- and/or sweat-resistant, that does not mean it is waterproof, so reapplication is still key; water- and sweat-resistant SPFs also need to be reapplied after towel-drying, regardless of how long you were swimming or sweating
Does Supergoop! provide broad spectrum protection?
Of course! All of our products provide broad spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Many of our products even go further to protect against blue light, pollution and infrared radiation!
If I wear SPF 30 and SPF 15 does it add up to SPF 45?
SPF numbers don’t “add up” — your skin is only protected by the highest amount of SPF that you put on. So if you apply both an SPF 15 and an SPF 30 then the highest amount your skin will be protected by is the SPF 30.
Do I need to wear SPF indoors?
Yes, the sun’s UVA rays penetrate through clouds and windows, and those are the rays that are responsible for issues like discoloration, fine lines and skin cancer. Plus, blue light from your computer and smartphone screens can cause skin damage as well.
Do I need to wear SPF with skincare products that include vitamin C?
Yes, a thousand times yes. Fun fact about vitamin C: It breaks down in the sun! So if you’re spending time (and money!) on a skincare routine that includes vitamin C, but you’re not incorporating SPF into your routine, then you’re not getting nearly the benefits that you could. Our advice would be to opt for a product that includes vitamin C and SPF, like our Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF 40 Serum!
Why do I need to reapply SPF?
There are a handful of things that can disrupt the protective layer of sunscreen on the surface of your skin: Sweating, touching your face/skin, oil production, etc. Plus, sunscreen will naturally break down on your skin when exposed to sunlight, so reapplication is a key component of skin protection. SPF should be reapplied at least every 2 hours for full protection (sooner after swimming or sweating — read your SPF’s application instructions). It’s totally OK to reapply mineral sunscreen over chemical sunscreen and vice versa.
If I have to reapply SPF every 2 hours, does that countdown start when I first apply my sunscreen or when I go out into the sun?
You should reapply SPF at least every two hours starting from when you first apply it! For example, if you were to apply SPF at noon and then go outside at 1pm, you would need to reapply at 2pm (two hours after application, not two hours after going outdoors).
Do I need to wear SPF if I have a dark skin tone?
Yes! All skin tones should wear sunscreen to protect from skin cancer and to help offset the signs of aging. Those with darker skin tones have more melanin, which helps provide a low level of protection against UVB rays, but not UVA rays! While damage might be not immediately apparent (in the form of sunburn or tanning), cumulative unprotected exposure can increase the the risk of skin cancer and accelerate photoaging.
Can a 100% mineral SPF be invisible?
Nope! A 100% mineral SPF can never be “invisible” because mineral actives are, by nature, made up of white powders. However, particularly on fair skin tones, they can blend in to be undetectable on the skin, and some 100% mineral SPFs can be formulated to give a subtle, sheer finish, like our Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30 and Mattescreen SPF 40!
What’s the difference between mineral and chemical SPF?
The primary differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens are a.) how they’re formulated and b.) how they actively shield your skin from UV rays. Get the breakdown below!
Is there such thing as “natural” SPF?
The short answer? No. All SPF, including 100% mineral SPF, is produced synthetically in a lab. This is to ensure that the materials don’t contain any impurities or traces of hazardous materials, and that the formulation lives up to its protection claims. “All-natural” product claims can be extremely misleading because there’s actually no official government organization that endorses the term, much less pinpoints a specific definition for it. So, when a sunscreen claims to be “natural,” it’s purely marketing.
What is the PA rating system?
“PA” is short for Protection Grade of UVA, and the PA rating system was originally established in Japan as a way of measuring a sunscreen’s level of UVA protection. The rating system is as follows:
- PA+: some UVA protection
- PA++: moderate UVA protection
- PA+++: high UVA protection
- PA++++: extremely high UVA protection
What is SPF efficacy?
SPF efficacy refers to the power of sunscreen to produce a certain (positive!) effect on your skin. Almost half of the suncare products on the market failed to meet their SPF and water-resistance claims, that’s why we share our products’ efficacy reports on our website — because we live up to what we put on the package.
Are Supergoop! SPFs reef-safe?
Yes, all of our products are reef-safe (i.e. they don’t include ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate which have been linked to coral reef damage), with the exception of Healthy Glow Sunless Tan SPF 40, which is not yet reef-safe.
Are Supergoop! SPFs cruelty-free?
Absolutely. Since day one, we have never tested on animals. Moreover, nearly all of our products are vegan, meaning they don’t use any animal byproducts. PLAY 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 and Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Stick SPF 50 are our only non-vegan products – they include beeswax.
Every. Single. Day.™: This is our motto, and a reminder of how often you should be wearing SPF!
Experts in SPF™: SPF is a complex equation and we’re the only ones who’ve been 100% dedicated to it for 15+ years; we innovate with the most cutting-edge science to create the most cutting-edge formulas
The No List: Our list of banned, unsafe, and/or potentially harmful ingredients that we’ll never, ever use in any of our formulas. Our saying goes, “When in doubt, we take it out!” See the full list here.
Beauty Base Layers (BBLs): SPFs that not only help protect against UV and blue light, but also prep and prime skin for makeup; we have four options, each with a different finish, and they’re lightweight, hydrating and packed with clean, skin-nourishing ingredients. (Find your BBL match here!)
SPF Wardrobe: An SPF routine that’s tailored to your skin’s needs and desired benefits; SPF wardrobes consist of multiple SPF products layered on top of one another, such as our Daily Dose Vitamin C serum and Superscreen moisturizer.
VIPs: Very Important Places, or your body’s most sun-sensitive spots (including your eyes, hands and lips!) that shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to sunscreen application .
Mineral Blend Technology: The technology that we incorporate in all of our mineral formulas, which allows them to blend more easily onto your skin, eliminating that pesky white cast (and it’s important to note that no mineral SPF will ever go on completely clear!)
SheerMatrix Technology: Our breakthrough formula for Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30 — it features a web-like structure that makes it lightweight & sheer, unlike any other mineral formula out there. Zinc oxide and other ingredients are suspended in a loosely-woven matrix with an almost veil-like consistency that’s able to ‘stretch’ to become ultra-lightweight without compromising efficacy.
Protect Your Investment: If you’re spending money on skincare with hardworking ingredients like retinol, AHA, BHA or vitamin C, you should be protecting that investment with SPF! Not only does SPF protect those ingredients from breaking down in the sun so your skin can get its full benefits, but SPF is also the one product that actually helps prevent the damage that your other products are trying to correct.
Clean Without Compromise: Our SPFs are clean, effective AND feel-good. We created the first SPF formulated without oxybenzone, parabens and synthetic fragrances, and we constantly stay on top of the latest health and safety research, so if something is even remotely controversial, we leave it out.
Live Bright: This is our constant state of mind! We live life like the sun is always shining — that means seeing the bright side in every moment, and it also means treating our skin with care 365 days a year.
Superpowered SPF: Our products go way beyond basic SPF to protect skin from the full spectrum of light and environmental aggressors, while providing highly personalized skincare benefits in textures and formats that defy typical sunscreen.
Wear Sunscreen: Well, this one speaks for itself 😉
Did we miss anything? Leave a comment below and we’ll answer your question, provide a definition or share relevant stats!