Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) What Does It Mean?

Sun Protection Factor is still confusing for many and I always thought the higher the SPF, the better off my skin would be. This is true, but only to a point as I learned a few years back.

SPF ratings are geared toward helping us determine how long we spend in the sun combined with how quickly we might burn when spending that time in the sun.

For instance: If you were to burn in 30 minutes.... then in order to spend, let's say 2 hrs in the sun, then an SPF of 4 will give you this extra time without burning. If you enjoy being outside all day in the sun, a full 8 hrs, then you would require an SPF of 15. If you burn in half this time then you would double your sun protection factor making an 8 hr day requiring an SPF of 30.

Now to give you some data that most don't realize. As explained to me by my dermatologist, and through information found in the skin deep data base and Mayo Clinic, anything over a 30 SPF is a waste of money and is giving us a false sense of security. Many think the higher the SPF the better, sometimes using SPF 45 or 55. This might be true if the sun were up 24/7 but for those that even burn in the shortest amount of time a 30 SPF is the highest required. And the Mayo Clinic warns that the time during the day to avoid the suns intense rays are between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. This is a 6 hr window..... so why are we slathering on chemical products that claim they'll last us into next week, unnecessarily? I mean...I personally don't wish to glow in the dark!

Sometimes I wonder if I should be more afraid of chemical sunscreens than the sun itself. I choose the sun in safe doses for health and well being while still always protecting my face.

Also remember, allowing the suns rays to have contact with our unprotected skin for brief periods during sun peak hours (approximately 15 minutes worth) helps us to create the essential Vitamin D our bodies crave which helps us fight off certain types of cancers, disease and fights osteoporosis. Plus most liquid sunscreens on the market today are formulated with synthetic chemicals and there there is now information available as to the fact that certain synthetic sunscreens are actually causing free radical damage to our skin by absorption of the suns UV rays rather than refracting them. You also could be using one of the ingredients you think is effective only to learn this may be one of the ones on the list for becoming completely ineffective in as little as 30 minutes, this includes being wary of SPF marketing claims. Much of it is hype!

An article that gives further information on these potential problems .... Are Sunscreens Safe To Use? I did part one to this information in relation to the use of Tanning Beds and are they a safer way to get a tan?

Environmental Factors: This will also equate with an SPF protecting our skin from sunburn. For instance, reflected sun off of snow, water or sand, swimming, exercising, or simply laying around in the sun, probably perspiring. Take these factors into consideration and realize that even an SPF in liquid form gets absorbed, breaks down over time or wears off before it is going to last you the recommended time in the sun. No liquid chemical sunscreen, regardless of its' SPF rating is going to last a full 8 hrs. Typically reapplication is required at the bare minimum every 4 hrs. This is why anything over an SPF 30 is a waste of money, is sales hype, and is only further enhancing higher levels of sunscreen chemicals to be absorbed into our bodies.

Also due to the fact that chemical sunscreens do break down, unless you are replacing them every 6 months to a year, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.

Another factor is those that call their SPF a sun block...this cannot be claimed and only Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide are physical sun blockers and chemicals do not block rays but absorb them so these must be referred to as sunscreens.

This now brings me to the benefits of dry Sunscreens utilizing Titanium Dioxide and / or Zinc Oxide which are typically found in mineral makeup.

The Truth about Sun Protection Factor: You will enjoy the added benefit of natural UV-A and UV-B protection from finely milled Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide used in mineral cosmetics.

These ingredients are different than liquid synthetic sunscreens since they provide a physical barrier capable of blocking the suns rays and give immediate protection as soon as they are applied. There is no waiting 15 to 20 minutes before going out into the sun or getting into the water. They are not nano sized, so they are not absorbed into the skin, but sit on top of it providing a very nice sun barrier. They refract UV light rather than absorb it. However, it is recommended using additional sunscreen in order to achieve a higher level of sun protection if you plan on being outside for extended periods, or at the very least perhaps apply another layer of mineral powder. Just make sure your choice will not cause problems for your skin; non-occlusive ingredients only and try to locate a liquid sunscreen that utilizes these two key ingredients. And when using mineral makeup, an additional step of locating a low SPF in liquid form is the most practical. You can also reduce the levels of synthetic chemical sunscreen exposure by substituting with clothing or staying inside when possible during the peak hours of sun exposure.

Unless you enjoy very heavy coverage, (Tammy Faye Baker springs to mind) all mineral makeup on the market is not designed for complete sun protection.  It serves to help boost it, yet it is also subject to how much you apply or how much time you spend outside, including whether it is peak or off peak hours of daylight. SPF rating claims cannot be achieved with the amount of powder most women typically use due to the intensity of color and coverage one gets from using so little. Furthermore, there is less sunscreen in darker shades and more in lighter shades since Titanium and Zinc are also considered a pigment for achieving the varying shades you find in mineral makeup. So it stands to reason an SPF rating will actually go up or down in strength depending on your skin tone. But also remember, those with darker skin have higher levels of melanin which will naturally protect their skin from the damage the sun can do. It is more about protection from the UVA rays which contribute to aging.

Depending on your shade selection and application rates when using a mineral makeup, SPF range can be anywhere from an SPF 10 to SPF 25 based on our own field testing of Sterling Minerals. I personally enjoy slightly heavier coverage so I have achieved the capability of remaining outside for most of the day with only my minerals on my face. Other woman using our minerals have claimed the same depending on their level of coverage. These ratings are beneficial; however you will need to decide how much protection you're actually getting from your use of mineral makeup.

This is why I will not pursue a Sun Protection Factor since it is completely subjective to how much you apply. I have been asked this question about our SPF rating and why we are not making a claim as to the level of protection our minerals can provide. Aside from the answers stated earlier, without the very expensive FDA testing for SPF, no company is allowed to make an actual claim to a rating. If they do, they are in violation of FDA law. Unfortunately, I see it all over the internet of others making SPF claims without the FDA certification. So please be wary about what you are actually buying.

Full disclosure is very important and again, I always try to make it clear my philosophy for my company which includes full transparency on everything we do within my company.

Hopefully this has created a better understanding of what an SPF rating actually means and how you are protected or rather unprotected through marketing claims and methods of use.

Have a lovely weekend!


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