What You Need To Know About SPF

The amount of sunscreen you should be slathering every time you go out in the sun should fill a shot glass. In the past, you were probably using way less than that (we certainly were), and we bet you also forgot to reapply it every two hours like you should (we certainly did). So with the help of a dermatologist, we asked for explanations about what SPF is, what it does, and how much of it we need to lower our chances of skin cancer.


Because women find sunburns, like, so unattractive. Just kidding. Well, they do, but there’s a better reason. Your risk of developing melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) doubles if you experience five or more sunburns, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Makes us think about the 200 sunburns we enjoyed as kids …


Sunscreens let light get through to the skin. Sunblock is a physical block that’s also visible (like that stuff surfers wear on their noses and cheeks). If you’re surfing, it’s a good idea to put sunblock on; not only because the sun’s rays bouncing against the water create intense rays that penetrate sunscreens, but also because faces are especially vulnerable to skin cancer. If you have large scars, use sunblock or cover the area up.


“Lotions offer better coverage, and also make you less likely to miss any spots,” explains Richard Bezozo, MD, a dermatologist and founder of MoleSafe, an early skin cancer detection service. If spray is all you have, then spray is what you use. But if you have access to both options, use spray on large areas of skin, then switch to lotion for your face, ears, top of head, and other hard-to-reach spots, like the middle of your back.