SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and is generally communicated by numbers on the packaging of sun care products. The number represents how much time your skin can be exposed to the sun’s rays before it burns. But SPF only concerns UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns.

The SPF number measures a sunscreen’s ability to filter UVB rays. The higher the number, the stronger the protection. How long you can be exposed to these rays depends on a number of factors: your skin’s phototype, the strength of the UV rays… Make sure you read the instructions that are specific to each product, and always check the expiration date before using.

UVA and UVB are the two types of solar rays. Most rays are actually UVA. They penetrate deep down into your skin and are responsible for causing signs of premature aging, dark spots and skin cancer. UVBs only make up 25% of rays. They stay at the skin’s surface and activate melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin colour and makes it tan. UVBs are also the ones that cause sunburns.

“Broad spectrum” means a sunscreen can filter both UVA and UVB rays. This is essential when you want to ward off signs of premature aging, sunburns and any other negative effects of the sun, including skin cancer.

A chemical filter is an ingredient in sunscreen made of organic molecules. They absorb UV rays instead of your skin. Labs are required to choose from a list of filters that are authorised by health officials. If your skin is sensitive, or you have allergic reactions, mineral filters are generally a better option.

A mineral filter (also called a physical or inorganic filter) is made up of different microparticles of minerals (often zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) that diffract light and reflect UV rays. These act like a barrier on your skin. They’re less allergenic and are effective as soon as applied. Environmentally-friendly, you can often find mineral filters in organic sun products (which are normally paraben- and conservative-free).


- Apply a sun cream or any other form of SPF every day, even if the sun isn’t visible.

- Apply your daily SPF in the morning or before any long exposure to the sun.

- In the summer, reapply your SPF at least every 2 hours, and more often if you’re sweating or after going for a swim.

- Check the expiration date on your SPF products, and the shelf-life of each product when sorting through your beauty products.

- UVA rays can damage your skin even through glass. So don’t hesitate to apply sunscreen, even if you’re staying inside.

- Wash your face thoroughly at night to get rid of any residue from your SPF that can clog your pores.

- Favour textures that are lighter, like gel or spray, if you have oily skin. Go for a richer texture, like a lotion or cream, if you have dry skin. Oils are good for all skin types. The most important thing is picking a sunscreen you enjoy applying, so you’ll want to use it all the time.

- The lighter your skin tone, the higher your SPF should be. But dark skin needs protection too! While it’s true that phototype VI skin has more natural protection because of a high concentration of melanin, this skin type isn’t immune to sunburns. On top of that, sun exposure can cause age spots on dark skin that are dark or light. A product with SPF 10-20 is great protection for darker skin tones.

- Understanding skin phototypes: phototype I comprises very fair skin, phototype II comprises fair skin, phototype III comprises medium-fair skin tones, phototype IV comprises light brown skin, phototype V comprises dark brown skin, and phototype VI comprises very dark brown and black skin.

- Sunscreen made of chemical filters should be applied 15-30 minutes before exposure. Ideally, you should first apply once while you’re at home, before going out. Then you should regularly reapply after that.