Sun protection index: what to choose?

Sun creams have a sun protection factor, also called SPF. What does it correspond to? What is a high index? 30 ? 50? how to choose it After his skin? From his exposure time at the beach? At what index do we tan? Meanings and tables to make the right choice.

Sunscreen, oil and gel have one sun protection factoralso called a “sun protection factor” (FPS or SPF). The higher the index, the more the product protects the skin from the harmful effects of solar radiation., which are responsible for sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. knowing that The sun protection index is not the same as the UV index which reflects the intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation seen on weather maps. What is a sun protection factor? As Choose it according to your skin type and color ? From the time of sun exposure? On the beach or in the mountains? Let’s tan anyway if we apply a high factor sunscreen? Know everything.

Definition: What is a sun protection factor?

The higher the sun protection factor, the greater the protection that the sunscreen offers.

The sun protection index (SPF for Sun Protection Factor, SPF for Sun Protection Factor or IP for Protection Index) is indicated on the sunscreen label. It is expressed in numbers and evaluates the product’s ability to delay the aggression of UVB rays on the skin. UVB rays are the cause of sunburn, the main cause of skin cancer. The higher the sun protection factor, the greater the protection that the sunscreen offers. The European Commission has decided to only keep the grouping of sun protection factors 8 different numbers on the labels divided into 4 categories: low protection, medium protection, high protection and very high protection. “If you are exposed to the sun, cover yourself with clothing, a hat and sunglasses. In the absence of clothing, apply sunscreen (at least index 30, at best an index 50) every 2 to 3 hours, especially on cancer-prone areas (face, neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, etc.)” emphasizes Dr. Isabelle Rousseaux, dermatologist interviewed in June 2021 for an article on the warning signs of skin cancer.

Table: What do the sun protection indices mean?

Ranking of sun protection indices
protection class SPF indicated on the label
Low protection 6 – 10
Medium protection 15-20-25
High protection 30 – 50
Very high protection 50+
Photo of sunscreen with SPF 30 © zheleva – 123RF

The sun protection index is calculated using the following formula: 1/index. For example, For a 30 index cream, the amount of UV transmitted is 1/30 or 3.33%. For an Index 10 cream, the amount of UV transmitted is 1/10 or 10%. For an Index 50 cream, the amount of UV transmitted is 1/50 or 2%.

This must be taken into account for an appropriate sun protection index skin type and the Sun exposure conditions. Refer to the table below to choose your sun index.

Choose your index according to your skin and sun exposure conditions
Moderate exposure (life spent outdoors) Significant exposure (on the beach, outdoor activities) Extreme stress (in the tropics, on glaciers, while skiing…)
Extremely sensitive skin (Person with milky white skin, freckles, red hair, always sunburned, with a history of skin cancer) High protection Very high protection Very high protection
Sensitive skin (People with fair skin, often a few freckles and/or strawberry blonde or auburn hair, often sunburned but possibly tanned) Medium protection High protection Very high protection
intermediate skin (fair-skinned person who tans quite quickly and only gets sunburned when exposed to very intense radiation) Low protection Medium protection High protection
Fairly resilient skin (People with sallow skin who tan easily without ever getting sunburned) Low protection Low protection Medium protection
UVA logo
UVA logo © Ministry of Economy

► In addition to the SPF index, which indicates the degree of UVB filtering, check whether your sun protection product UVA logo. It is the guarantee of optimal protection against UV rays, which are responsible for premature aging of the skin. This logo is not mandatory but is recommended and used by many professionals.

There is no full screen: a sunscreen cannot claim 100% protection against UV radiation (designations such as “total shield” or “total protection” are prohibited).

Do not confuse “sunscreen” with so-called “sunscreen”., such as self-tanning products or tanning accelerators (Monoï, milking grease, etc.). These in no way offer protection from UVA and UVB rays and should not be used as such.

What is the highest sun protection factor?

The highest sun protection factor is 50+. This corresponds to a very high level of protection. This index means that the cream only ‘lets’ 2% of UVB radiation but needs to be reapplied every 2 hours. It is to be used on extremely sensitive skin in strong or extreme sun exposure (beach, outdoor activities, in the tropics, in a glacier) and sensitive skin in extreme sun exposure (in the tropics, in a glacier ).

Do you tan with a high sun protection factor, 30 or 50?

Yes. A high index, even 50, “only” filters 98% of UV rays, so the skin is still protected 2% UV exposure emitted by the sun so that protected skin gradually stains, preventing sunburn and the risk of skin cancer. know that 15 minutes of sun exposure is enough to trigger the tanning mechanism. The use of a sunscreen with a high SPF therefore makes it possible to delay the moment when the amount of UV rays becomes too great for the skin, causing sunburn that makes it impossible to be exposed to the sun in the following days.

Sun protection index for glasses: which one to choose?

When attached to sunglasses, the sun protection factor is shown the protection level of the tinted lenses of the glasses. “Always wear sunglasses With a good protection index (from 3 at least4 for children or when you go to the mountains or the sea), with glasses CE marking that certify European conformity and really effectively filter UV rays”, recommends Valérie Rubio, optician with a diploma from the Générale d’Optique and specialist in children’s optics.

Sun protection factor for sunglasses
category Use For when ? Percentage of filtered light
0 Aesthetic comfort glasses Avoid < 19%
1 weak sunlight Limited sunshine when skies are gray and overcast Between 20 and 57%
2 Average sun brightness Average sunshine, except in summer Between 58 and 82%
3 Strong solar luminosity Context with strong luminosity in summer (beach, sea) and in winter (mountains and skiing) Between 83 and 92%
4 Extreme brightness Extreme conditions (alpinism in high mountains or on glaciers), category driving ban because it changes vision and color perception Between 92 and 97%

Sources: Ministry of the Economy.Gov / Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention / National Consumer Institute (INC)

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