How to read an SPF label

Sunscreen is undoubtedly one of the most important skincare products that every person should be using on a daily basis. Whether it is a bright and beautiful day outside, or storming and dark, we need protection at all times! 

Have you ever read a sun cream label and wondered what the hell all the abbreviations meant?? You are not alone.

The label on the front packaging of your sunscreen reflects the amount of protection that it provides for your skin, and we want to help you understand it better! Let's dig into the terminology and details of sun cream that you'll find on the packaging: 

1. SPF 

Stands for : Sun Protection Factor

  • Measures: How long your skin (after you’ve applied sunscreen) can handle UV-rays before it burns in comparison to your bare skin. 
  • Reflects: Associated with the amount of protection to UVB (UV-Burn) as UVB is considered as the biggest factor in causing a burn on the skin.
  • Range: The SPF label can range up to 50, and any sunscreen with protection above 50 will be generalised and labeled as 50+.

For example:

When you apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 on one side of your forearm and leave the other one bare without any sunscreen, while it takes only 10 minutes for your skin to get burned, it will take 30 times longer for your other forearm protected by the sunscreen to get burned, which is 10 minutes’ x 30 = 300 minutes (5 hours).

2. PA 

Stands for : Protection grade of UVA

  • Measures: How long your skin (after you’ve applied sunscreen) can handle UV-rays before it darkens in comparison to your bare skin. 
  • Reflects: Associated with the amount of protection to UVA. PA is used in Japanese or Korean sunscreen to measure how long it takes for your skin to darken compared to bare skin. PA is considered a simplified version of the PPD (persistent pigment darkening) measurement used in Europe. 
  • Range: From one plus (+) up to four plus (++++)

✓ One plus (+) = 2 – 4 PPD 

✓ Two plus (++) = 4 – 8 PPD

✓ Three plus (+++) = 8 – 16 PPD

✓ Four plus (++++) = > 16 PPD

For example:

When you apply sunscreen with PA+++ on one arm and leave the other one unprotected, while it takes just 10 minutes for the unprotected arm to darken, it may take 16 times or longer (more than 160 minutes) time for the protected arm to darken compared to the former.   

3. Broad-spectrum

Broad-spectrum is a label that is commonly found in US sunscreen. It reflects the qualitative protection of the sunscreen from UVA and UVB.

An OMG Top Tip

Your sunscreen should preferably have an SPF of at least 30, however, since sunscreen wears off due to sweating and sebum production throughout the day, it is always better to aim for the highest amount of protection possible! Also always make sure that your sunscreen of choice is labeled as broad-spectrum to ensure UVA and UVB protection!

At OhMyGloe, we love the Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++ and would love to hear your thoughts on it! Leave a review here, or tag us on Instagram at @ohmygloe in your reviews!