There are many misconceptions about the meaning of SPF and the protective ability of sunscreens. As an adult (depending on skin type and degree of UV radiation), we can spend an average of 5-30 minutes in the sun unprotected without burning. One of the most important things when choosing sunscreen is choosing a product with the right SPF. But what does the SPF number mean? How to choose the right one? What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?
Sunlight is essential for the varied life on Earth, but it has effects that are harmful to our skin. These can occur immediately after sunbathing (sunburn) and in the long term, years, decades, with symptoms of photoaging. This is why it is so important to be aware of the meaning of SPF, chemical and physical sunscreens.
The Sun Protection Factor is basically a measure of the effectiveness of the sunscreen. The SPF is a multiplier, it shows how many times longer you can stay in the sun without sunburn by using that particular sunscreen. To do this, you need to know our own skin type, as everyone's skin has a different defence system: a person with very light skin can burn even after 3 minutes, so with an SPF 10 sunscreen you can only spend 30 minutes safely in the sun (3 minutes x 10 SPF = 30 minutes), in contrast, darker, Creole skin is much more protected.
Don’t take it for granted that if you choose a product with a high sun protection factor (SPF 50), you are maximally protected and can sunbathe on the beach all day without any damage.
The fundamental difference is in their mechanism of action: physical sunscreens reflect and scatter harmful UV rays and exert their effects immediately after application. They contain natural mineral filters such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that protect from the full UV spectrum. They are less durable and can leave a slight white, powdery mark on the skin. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, are sunk into the skin and absorb UV rays that enter into the skin. Because a combination of several chemicals is included in the formulations (oxybenzone, octylcrylen, avomenzone, retinyl palmitate, octinoxate), they are more durable but can cause allergies more easily.