What is SPF

It’s important for everyone to spend some time in the sun. Our bodies need enough vitamin D to help produce calcium for healthy bones.

However, regular or excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays in the sun will accelerate the ageing process. It also increases the chances of developing sun spots, moles and even skin cancer. So it is important to wear sunscreen with a high SPF to shield your skin from harmful UV rays, protect against sunburn and avoid accelerating the ageing process.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures the level of UVB protection a sunscreen or piece of sun protection clothing will give you and ranges from 1 – 90.

How does SPF work?

SPF is all about time, not strength. The SPF of your sunscreen or other sun protection product indicates the length of time that your skin is protected from sunburn, depending on your skin type.

To help you understand a bit better, if you were to start getting sunburned after 3 minutes in the sun without any sunscreen on, applying a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 would protect you for 3 minutes x 30 (or 90 minutes) before you begin to burn.

Read more about sunburn

Factors such as how much sunscreen you apply, the weather, amount of sweating, swimming, drying yourself and skin types will also affect your level of protection.

People tend to not apply enough sunscreen when they are out in the sun or it can be rubbed or washed off, it is recommended that you reapply sunscreen every two hours regardless of its SPF factor.

Visit our Sunscreen page for more tips on choosing the best sunscreen for you and your family.

Different levels of SPF

As you know, sunscreens vary in SPF factor. We recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50.

No sunscreen can block all UVB rays however, in terms of percentages, a sunscreen with SPF 15 will filter out approximately 93% of the UVB rays you are exposed to, one with SPF 30 keeps out about 97% and an SPF 50 sunscreen block 98%.

These differences might seem small but over a lifetime, it all adds up and if you have a history of skin cancer or are extra sensitive to sunlight, every little bit of protection helps.

An SPF 50+ sunscreen will give you 50 x the sun protection of what you’re skin naturally provides. This level of sunscreen allows a lower amount of damaging UVB rays to penetrate and damage your skin than lower SPF sunscreens. However, it’s important not to take that extra protection for granted. Remember to apply your SPF 50+ sunscreen as regularly as your SPF 30 or SPF 15 to ensure continuous protection throughout the day.

Sunscreen tips

Here are some helpful tips to help you get the most protection from your sunscreen:

  • Reapply your sunscreen frequently. No sunscreen, regardless of the SPF factor will give you all-day protection after a single application. So apply before going in the sun and reapply frequently - especially if you’re swimming, exercising or sweating excessively.
  • Avoid direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Between the hours of 10am to 4pm, the UVA and UVB rays are at their strongest. This period may start earlier and finish later in summer.
  • Give babies and children the extra protection they need. Their skin is thinner and less able to repair damage than adult skin. Make sure they always wear a very high protection sunscreen that won’t irritate their delicate skin, such as NIVEA Sun Kids Caring Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+. Babies under the age of three should also be fully covered by clothing, including a hat, and kept out of direct sunlight. Always read the label. Use only as directed.
  • Experiment with healthier ways to get a tan. Read our tips on tanning safely.
  • Once you have chosen the best sunscreen for you, use it correctly but remember that sunscreen alone won’t protect your skin against all UV rays. Sunscreen is just one crucial element of effective sun protection to help lower your risk of skin cancer and keep your skin looking younger and healthier for longer. Wear long-sleeved clothing, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats as well for maximum sun protection.