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Fitness Tips

What’s the Real Deal with Sunscreen

July 20, 2015

Sorry for the weekend silence, I was off on a beach break in the Hamptons on Long Island. And might have gotten a little burned. While canoeing. #oopsie

But seriously, how many of us have gotten through a whole summer without getting burned?! Even though I’ve become a sunscreen fan, I still wasn’t clear on how sunscreen really worked until I decided to do this post. So read on to find out how does sunscreen work, can you tan with sunscreen, how a sunburn actually happens, and what this whole SPF thing is.


Firstly, you might have already heard this fun fact but: SPF is just a measurement of for long you’re protected from the sun.

So yes, you’ll get the same tan with SPF 30 and 90.

You might seem to tan faster with SPF 30 but that’s only because it’s worn off. Sorry Snooki.

Sunscreen is basically made to protect you from the sun’s UVB (and UVA) rays that put you at risk for the whole skin cancer thing by either absorbing or reflecting the sun’s photons.

SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and you’ll pretty much get the same strength of protection from anything with SPF 15 or higher. The way numbers work is that if your skin normally burns in 10 minutes, with SPF 15, for example, it’d take you 15 times longer to burn (so 150 minutes instead). But the problem is that most people only use one fourth the amount of sunscreen they should (and those 150 minutes are suddenly cut down to around half an hour).

Your body tans when ultraviolet rays come in contact with skin cells, causing them to release a pigment called melanin. Lots of melanin = very tan. Your body starts to turn burn instead of tanning though when it feels it’s had enough of these rays. Your body’s first response is to turn red and dilate blood vessels to start fixing things. A sunburn will peel if your body thinks it should get rid of some of those damaged cells.

So what can you do to tell your body to chill? Literally, just help it chill.

Take a cold shower/bath and don’t apply any greasy creams (which actually trap heat). Aloe vera and cucumber are great instant cooling remedies. Also, keep in mind that the deeper layers of your skin are still trying to heal even when the sunburn looks like it’s gone away. So be nice to your skin. If the sun damage does remain for a while after the event of being burned then trying something like a chemical peel, will help to restore your skin back to its original state by promoting healthy skin growth.

But what are your sunburn cures? Do you guys like these science-y posts? (Be honest!)

*image from here