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What the Heck is SPF?

What the Heck is SPF?

By Cassi Bee 

As you already know, we care a lot about what you put on your body. The skin is the largest organ of the human body and oftentimes, doesn't get the attention it deserves. 

While PiperWai does not offer protection from the sun, skincare and wellness are big aspects of our brand. Now that it's summer, your skin is most vulnerable to damaging UV rays, and we want to help protect your skin as much as we want to help protect you from odor. 

Since more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined — we can generally agree that any effort to prevent skin cancer is (likely) a good one, which is why we want to share the best methods to protect your skin during the season. 
One myth about sun, skin and SPF is that the darker the complexion, the less SPF needed. No matter the skin tone, UV rays can severely damage skin if exposed for too long. According to the American Cancer Society, skin-cancer rates have gone up 20 percent in the past 20 years for Hispanic Americans. This means SPF is a necessity for everyone. 
Want more info on SPF? Read on to find out which option is best for you. 

Sun Protection Factor

SPF stands for "sun protection factor," and measures the amount of protection offered by a certain sunscreen or sunblock. The number (or “factor”), such as SPF 15, identifies the fraction of sunlight that will reach your skin if appropriately applied. In this case, your skin will still see about 1/15th (or 6%) of the ultraviolet (UV) rays coming down. In an SPF 30, that protection increases to 1/30th (and only about 3% makes it through.) It is important to note that the increase in SPF does not mean a longer time period of protection, but rather the level of protection one might receive. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum SPF 30, applied daily, every two hours. To ensure proper coverage, it is recommended to use at least one ounce (about a shot glass) of sunscreen to cover any exposed skin. 

UVA vs. UVB vs. Broad Spectrum Protection

Ultraviolet-A, or UVA, are long-wave rays that make up about 95 percent of the sun's radiation and yet only a handful of sunscreen products offer protection against it. UVA rays penetrate the deepest layer of your skin, the hypodermis, causing tanning, leathering, aging/wrinkling, spotting, uneven skin tone, and function as the stepping stone for some skin cancers and melanoma. 

These rays, ultraviolet-b, are short-wave rays responsible for that crisp, sunkissed-pink-to-lobster-red we are so used to seeing after a few extra minutes in the sun. UVB burns the epidermal layer of your skin, and while it only makes up about five percent of the rays received, it’s the type of UV most sunscreens protect against thanks to its potency and obvious and immediate affect on our skin. 

Broad Spectrum

The term “broad-spectrum coverage” means the sunscreen or sunblock will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, offering the highest level of protection in terms of the ultraviolet spectrum (see below) and what we need to worry about for our skin. This is an important detail to look for when you’re choosing a sunscreen or sunblock, especially if those aging rays (UVA) are of concern.


Which do I choose?

Still not sure which SPF to pick up? No worries, we can help! The FDA recommends using "broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed." 

If you are particularly prone to sunburn, you may need to go for a higher SPF such as SPF 30 or 50. Just be sure to continue to apply every two hours! Higher SPF doesn't mean your sunscreen lasts longer, only that it protects against a higher percentage of UV rays.

You won't necessarily see an obvious difference in sunburn protection after a certain SPF value, either. Most folks think SPF 100 offers twice the protection of an SPF 50, but the difference is actually pretty insignificant when we get to the math and science of it

"Properly applied SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 98 percent of UVB rays; SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. When used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values in the range of 30 to 50 will offer adequate sunburn protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn."

Ingredients to Avoid

If you're already using PiperWai, you know the importance of what you put on your body and the ingredients included in each product. Sunscreens and sunblocks, like a number of other skincare products, can contain harmful ingredients and hormone blockers, which interfere with our endocrine systems, that you may want to avoid. 

"Paraben preservatives (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-) can induce allergic reactions, hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity,” according to Women’s Health, and a number of different scientific studies. There is also a suspected link between the inclusion of parabens to an uptick in breast cancer when used in underarm products or cosmetics that science is working to better understand through varies theories and studies.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are often found in products with SPF because these ingredients help lotion or oil get into deeper layers of the epidermis. The downside to this chemical enhancement is that it starts to accumulate in our bodies, disrupting hormones faster than our bodies can process the chemical and clear it out of our system.

We think that the more natural the ingredients, the better it is overall, so we avoid these ingredients always when developing PiperWai jar, stick and potential future products. 

Effects on the Environment

We don’t always consider the ways in which our lifestyle choices can affect the environment, but as a final point, we’d like to point out how important it is to think about this when using sunscreen products in open water or while camping. The harmful chemicals can come off of our skin pretty easily and enter nature, causing the same hormonal disruptions and chemical interferences we worry about for ourselves. This can turn into overall damage to the environment on a larger scale. Hawaii even banned some sunscreens recently in an effort to help save their underwater ecosystem and encourage folks to be a little more thoughtful about the ingredient labels of their skincare products, and as a vegan, non-toxic, cruelty-free company concerned about the health of our environment, we think that’s a great idea. 

Sunscreen, Sunblock, and/or Sun Tan Oil…

Sunscreen works by chemically absorbing the sun’s radiation and, when applied appropriately, by preventing that radiation from penetrating the sunscreen and reaching the epidermal layer of your skin. This is a little different than how sunblocks work, and often includes ingredients to help your skin absorb the ingredients a little more easily.

To avoid too many chemicals being layered onto your body’s biggest organ, we recommend a mineral sunscreen like Austrailian Gold’s Botanical products.

Unlike sunscreen, sunblock works by physically deflecting the sun’s radiation. The recommended amount for any sunscreen or sunblock is about one ounce per application, so be sure to apply enough when using this stuff even if it looks like it isn’t rubbing in. An uneven layer will leave your skin looking less than uniform and you may end up with patchy spots where the sun was able to penetrate.

And very much unlike both, sun tanning oil or lotion works by emphasizing the ultraviolet rays, rather than protecting against them, intensifying the effects and producing an even, tanned look on exposed skin. Think of this oily substance as a magnifying glass for the sun’s radiation, lightly toasting your epidermic layers in less time than even unprotected skin would experience. (We don't recommend this.)

Instead of toasting your buns like a bagel, we suggest taking a less damaging route to tanned skin and use an all-natural, non-toxic, self-tanning option like Aussie Bronze. This body bronzer is not only plant based, but also vegan, toxin-and-cruelty free. Plus, it washes off pretty easily.

The most important things to consider when picking out a sunscreen would be your individual skincare needs, the ingredients included and how they help or hurt your body or the environment, and what level of protection works best for your lifestyle or routine. Always aim for about an ounce of sunscreen and remember the differences between UVA, UVB and Broad Spectrum protection. There are no perfect sunscreens, but there are some safer, smarter options out there. We hope this information helps you choose what will work best for you and your skin! 

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