Choosing the Best SPF for Your Sunscreen

woman checking a sunscreen label at the store

Going outside on a beautiful day is one of the many joys of the warmer months. But forgetting to protect yourself from the sun and sunburns can put a damper on your activities. 

Joe Santangelo, MD

“After our long winters, we all want to get out in the sun as much as we can in the summer! Safety first – protect yourself from the UV radiation that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging.” — Joe Santangelo, MD, Chief Medical, Quality and Safety Officer


Sunscreen and a hat can help tremendously. But when you stock up on sunblock, finding the right product can feel overwhelming. With so many different sunscreen formulas and SPF numbers, what is the best choice to keep your skin safe from the summer rays?

What to look for in a sunscreen

Sun protection factor, commonly known as SPF, is a measure of how much of the sun’s rays are blocked. 

An SPF 30 sunscreen blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more than 97%.

While it might seem counterintuitive to choose a lower SPF number, there's not much difference in protection between SPF 30 and higher SPF numbers. When in doubt, stick with a water-resistant SPF 30 with broad-spectrum protection. Even if you don’t plan to swim, sweating can also cause your sunscreen to wear off.

How to maximize your sun protection

 Adult applying sunscreen to the back of a young child

No sunscreen blocks 100% of the sun’s UVB rays. Follow the rest of our tips to make sure you’re properly protected from the sun.

  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours (more frequently if you’re in the water or sweating).
  • Pick a sunscreen formula that you like, which will help you want to reapply more frequently.
  • Follow the SPF instructions to ensure you’re using enough product to be effective.
  • Wear clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor, plus a hat.
  • Seek shade and stay out of the sun when the sun is most powerful, typically between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Remember that sunscreen is important regardless of your skin tone.
  • Sun protection is important regardless of the season. Remember to apply sunscreen to exposed skin anytime you’re outdoors.
  • Avoid tanning beds, which also cause exposure to UV radiation.

Need help? Ask a Nurse

Are you sunburned and concerned? Or maybe you have another health-related question?

Munson Healthcare’s Ask-A-Nurse hotline is available at no charge 24 hours a day. A registered nurse can help you determine whether your symptoms are severe enough to see a physician. Call 231-935-0951 to talk to a nurse now. No insurance is required. 


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