Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a very important element of choosing a great sunscreen.
But here’s the thing…
It doesn’t really help to focus on SPF unless you have a genuine understanding of what it means. Without this, you simply can’t choose the best SPF for sunscreen on your skin.
I know this from experience. Learning about SPF changed the way I choose sunscreens and made me immediately change the sunscreens I use.
Here’s a really simple explanation. SPF tells you what fraction of the sun’s UVB rays will reach your skin IF you have properly applied your sunscreen. (So get that application technique down pat!)
Let’s break it down even further:
If you’re wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 50, then only 1/50th of the sun’s rays will reach your skin. That sounds great, right? Well, it is helpful, but figuring out what’s the best SPF sunscreen to use isn’t as simple as it may seem.
What you need to keep in mind is that there are many factors which influence the effectiveness of SPF. So knowing which SPF is best for sun protection depends on different things.
It depends on the time of day that you’re in the sun, the amount of sunscreen that you have properly applied to your skin, and it even depends on reflections from the surfaces around you such as water or sand, if you’re at, say, a beach.
Despite these variable you’re still left asking, ‘What sunscreen SPF is best?’. Before giving a solid answer to that question, I want to help you better understand the differences between SPFs. Here’s a table that makes it pretty clear:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Now that you’ve read this table, I’m guessing your opinion about the SPF is more flexible.
Who knew that there was such a small difference between an SPF of 30 and one of 100? I sure didn’t. And when I learned, it made me think differently about what the best SPF really is.
So you start to wonder again, what should I choose? What is really the best sunscreen SPF?
The truth is that there are varying opinions on this matter, and that what it comes down to is largely personal preference depending on specific needs.
The American Academy of Dermatologists has set out clear guidelines in which they suggest the you should always choose sunscreens with SPFs no lower than 30 and no higher than 50. This makes a lot of sense concerning the protection provided by these SPFs, as they are all offer nearly identical protection.
You really do not need to spend extra money for an SPF of 100. It’s basically a marketing trick as you now know how small the difference actually is.
If you’re someone who usually uses a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, don’t rush to change just yet. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that the majority of sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher will effectively protect you against UVB rays.
The best SPF for you will come down to your situational needs and your unique skin composition. Here are a couple of broad rules to follow:
- Lighter skin = higher SPF
- Longer/More intense exposure = higher SPF
Best SPF Sunscreens
Now that you’ve read a bit about different SPFs, how much protection they provide, and which ones are the best, it’s time to take a look at some of your options.
There are countless sunscreens on the market, but here is a short list of some of the best choices with different SPFs:
Best SPF 15 Sunscreen: Badger Sunscreen Cream SPF 15
- SIMPLY THE SAFEST SUNSCREEN - Badger sets the standard for simple safe sunscreens that protect you and your family. This broad spectrum mineral sunscreen has only 5 ingredients: non-nano zinc oxide, organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, sunflower vitamin E, and organic seabuckthorn extract. Hypoallergenic & non-comedogenic this all-natural sunscreen is perfect for sensitive skin and all skin types.
- PROTECTS WITH THE MINERAL ZINC OXIDE - Badger’s SPF 15 Unscented Sunscreen Cream uses non-nano, large particle zinc oxide which stays on top of your skin, scattering and absorbing UVA & UVB rays, and won’t absorb into your bloodstream. Naturally water and sweat resistant for at least 40 minutes it's great for the beach, swimming, and light sports.
- REEF SAFE SUNSCREEN - Safe for coral means safe for you too! Badger sunscreens are made without oxybenzone or any chemicals shown to harm coral or humans. All Badger sunscreen lotions and creams are top rated for safety and efficacy by the EWG sunscreen guide. This eco-friendly biodegradable mineral sunscreen protects you without endangering marine life.
- 98% ORGANIC INGREDIENTS FOR HEALTHY SKIN - The certified organic sunscreen base ingredients are antioxidant rich, ultra-moisturizing, and great for your skin. Non-GMO, fragrance free, and contains no dyes, parabens, or other artificial ingredients. Healthy botanical ingredients promote healthy skin.
- A BRAND YOU CAN TRUST - Badger is a family owned, women run B Corporation (Benefit Corp) making mineral sunscreens and other organic skin care products that we use on our own families in rural New Hampshire since 1995. We are the leaders in safe natural sunscreens. Don't just take our word for it, read our ingredients, see what others say about Badger sunscreens, and try them for yourself.
Last update on 2020-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If you do prefer to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, the best thing for you to do is to find one that provides you with the best physical, broad spectrum protection available.
Badger Sunscreen Cream SPF 15 is that sunscreen.
Your broad spectrum protection is provided with its active ingredient zinc oxide (10%). Zinc oxide is a physical ingredient which protects against the full range of UVA/B rays so you’re getting optimal protection with it.
Badger Sunscreen Cream is an excellent option for any type of skin. It’s a gentle and natural formula which includes ingredients like vitamin E and beeswax in order to nourish your skin while it’s being protected.
This formula provides solid protection with a lesser level of white cast and thickness than some other products with higher concentrations of zinc oxide.
Badger Sunscreen Cream is suitable for daily use on your face and body, and is flexible enough to be used throughout the seasons as it provides 40 minutes of water resistance.
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen with an SPF 15, Badger Sunscreen Cream is your most reliable choice!
- Zinc oxide (10%)
- 40 minutes of water resistance
- Gentle enough for daily use
- Slight white cast
Best SPF 30 Sunscreen: Raw Elements Eco Formula Sunscreen SPF 30
- EWG TOP-RATED SUNSCREEN – Performance-driven face and body sun protection lasts up to 80 minutes and does not run or sting your eyes
- DAILY USE FOR ALL AGES – Gentle, moisturizing formula can be used as part of your daily skin care routine and is gentle enough for kids
- CERTIFIED ORGANIC NATURAL MINERAL SUNSCREEN – Soy, gluten and nut free, contains no synthetic chemicals and packed with nourishing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, so your skin stays protected long after environmental exposure
- SPF 30+ BROAD-SPECTRUM PROTECTION – With a sole active ingredient of 23% Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, our Face + Body Lotion 30+ provides UVA-UVB true broad-spectrum coverage
- SAFE FOR OUR PLANET – Reef-safe, Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, non-GMO and biodegradable in recyclable packaging. Protect yourself and the environment!
Last update on 2020-04-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Sunscreens with SPFs of 30 are the most common choices on the market, which means making a choice can become overwhelming. So how do you know which SPF 30 rated sunscreen is the best option?
What you want is a physical sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection and will be safe enough for you to use on your face and body daily.
Raw Elements Eco Formula Sunscreen SPF 30 provides exactly what you need. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection with a very high concentration of the super active ingredient zinc oxide (23%).
The first thing to know about Raw Elements’ formula is that it will definitely leave you with a white cast due to its high concentration of zinc oxide. Luckily, it works well under makeup once it has dried. You could also just consider it the mark of great protection!
The environmentally safe sunscreen is also gentle enough to be used on all different skin types on a daily basis without causing irritation. With 80 minutes of water resistance, you are covered during sweat-inducing weather or while you’re swimming.
This SPF 30 rated sunscreen is a safe and effective choice for you and your whole family.
- High concentration of zinc oxide (23%)
- 80 minute of water resistance
- All-natural, environmentally safe, and gentle formula
- White cast
Best SPF 50 Sunscreen: thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+
- Top rated by EWG skin deep database with a "1" rating since 2010. First sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements
- Free of biologically harmful chemicals: no avobenzone, oxybenzone, paraben, phthalate, paba and 1,4 dioxane free or UV chemical absorbers
- Highest - SPF 50 plus, water resistance (80 minutes), broad-spectrum coverage as proposed by the 2012 monograph
- Non-nano zinc oxide formulation average particle size >100micron, non-aerosol formulation (high concern of both ineffectiveness and particulates being inhaled)
- Applies and absorbs easily non-oily feel does not have an obtrusive smell that many organic sunscreens have. No animal testing.
Last update on 2020-04-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
You may find yourself searching for the best high SPF sunscreen if you have paler or especially sensitive skin.
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+ provides broad spectrum protection through its active ingredient zinc oxide (20%). This physical sunscreen cannot be beat when it comes to the best physical and high SPF protection.
Thinksport is a brand that values their responsibility in protecting their customers. It was named the first sunscreen to pass the Whole Foods premium care requirements, and is unmatched in safety.
Though its name may sound harsh or rugged, thinksport is an extremely gentle formula that is safe for all skin types. You’ll be able to use it on your face and body every day with no issues.
It is a sunscreen with a high zinc concentration so expect a white cast. But don’t worry, even though it’s thick, it works pretty well under makeup if you want to cover it up a bit.
With thinksport’s 80 minutes of durable water resistance, you will have flexibility throughout the year and in many different situations.
Look no further than thinksport in your search for a great high SPF sunscreen.
- High concentration of zinc oxide (20%)
- 80 minutes of water resistance
- Suitable for daily use
- Leaves white cast
I wrote this guide for people wanting to learn about the best SPF for their sunscreen choices. I hope that after reading this guide you have gained a better understanding of SPF and how it works.
Your choice of what SPF to use is a very personal one. Take your time in thinking about the situation you’ll use your sunscreen in and about your skin and any conditions you must care for.
There is no SPF right for everyone. Knowing your needs and understanding SPF will allow you to make the best sunscreen choices for you!
If you use or know of any other sunscreens for specific SPFs, share them in the comments. I love learning new things from others and I’ll be happy to check out the products and see if they fit on this list!