How to Determine What Sunscreen Level is Best for You

It is now fall, and getting close to winter, is a sunscreen still necessary, and if so, which level is best? Even though, the summer sun is no longer beating down on your skin, does not mean that it is “OK” to forgo sunscreen. The sun consists of ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin (i.e. sunburns, blisters, allergic reactions, skin cancer, premature aging, eye conditions, and sunspots) all year long. Sunscreen protects your skin from those harmful effects. In addition, without protection, UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. How? Well, UV rays not only affect you when it is sunny, they also affect your when it is cloudy because they pass through clouds.

It is important to note that not all sunscreens provide the same coverage. The key to adequate protection is selecting the appropriate sunscreen level, and applying the sunscreen properly. In other words, neglecting to reapply sunscreen on especially sunny days, not selecting a high enough sunscreen level, and/or not putting enough sunscreen on can cause sunburns, and even skin cancer. If you are interested in learning how to determine what sunscreen level is best for you, you have come to the right place. This article will teach you how the different sunscreen levels can affect your ability to properly protect your skin from temporary and permanent damage.


If you want adequate sunscreen coverage all year long, you will need to select a sunscreen level (SPF) between 30 and 45. The optimal level is SPF 45.  In addition, the sunscreen should consist of broad-spectrum ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. A SPF level of 15 is acceptable for facial sun protection. According to WebMD (2014), UVA rays elevate your risk of skin cancer. Although UVA rays do not usually cause sunburns, they can penetrate your skin, causing premature aging, sunspots, wrinkles and skin cancer. Moreover, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (2014), approximately 90% of age-related skin changes are triggered by chronic exposure to UVA rays.


Once you have selected your sunscreen level, you will need to apply at least 1 ounce (the size of a shot glass) of sunscreen to your entire body, including your buttock, nose, back, hairline, neck, ears, chest, feet, and face. Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before venturing outdoors. Do not place the sunscreen around your mouth or eyes.

Touch Ups

Do not forget to reapply the sunscreen at least every 2 to 3 hours, even if the sunscreen claims to be “water-resistant.” If you plan to go swimming, work outside, sweat a lot, or plan to be outdoors for a long amount of time, you may need to reapply the sunscreen every hour or so.


Listed below are some things you should consider when selecting and applying sunscreen protection to your skin:

  • What is the expiration date? Check the expiration date of sunscreen before applying it to your skin. If the sunscreen does not list an expiration date, you can safely assume it will be good for at least 2 to 3 years.
  • Do you have sunglasses? As an added bonus, purchase sunglasses with UV protection, and/or lip balm with sunscreen (SPF) to protect your eyes and lips from ultraviolet rays. Moreover, purchase a large hat to protect your face from sun damage.
  • Do you want a tanned appearance? If so, you may want to consider a less harmful alternative to tanning – sunless spray tans (i.e. lotions, creams, and/or sprays).


Griffin, R. M. (2014). What’s the best sunscreen? WebMD. Retrieved from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2014). Sun protection. Retrieved from





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