A Detailed Guide On SPF - SPF Explained

By now we all know that wearing SPF is essential for protecting your skin against sun damage, premature aging and even skin cancer. But the debates over chemical vs. mineral SPF and the level of sun protection you need have made choosing the right sunscreen anything but simple. Read on for a step by step guide to find your best fit.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it indicates the percentage of sun rays that get blocked by your cream.

SPF by the Numbers

Dermatologists correlate the following numeric SPFs with the total percentage of sun protection. The numbers may surprise you:
  • SPF 15 filters out about 93% of sun rays
  • SPF 30 filters out about 97% of sun rays
  • SPF 50 filters out about 99% of sun rays

Do I Need an SPF Higher than 50?

There’s a common misconception that really high SPFs, like an SPF 75 or 100 will offer far greater protection, especially if you have fair skin. In reality, the protection of these SPFs is not significantly greater, so no need to use an SPF over 50. Why? Because higher SPFs actually tend to be less balanced in the protection they offer against UVA vs. UVB rays. Often, they will offer far greater UVB protection than UVA protection. In fact, the FDA is currently debating whether they allow brands to label SPF as anything greater than 50. So, for now, stick to SPF 50s and below.

The Difference between UVA and UVB Rays- And What’s the Deal with Blue Light?

You know you’ve gotten too much sun when you start to feel the burn; however, sun burn is just one factor when it comes to sun damage. Sun burns are a result of exposure to UVB rays, the rays responsible for causing skin cancer.

UVA rays are the ones that cause wrinkles, and other visible signs of aging like age spots. These rays are a little sneakier and affect your skin even when you are out of direct sunlight by shining through clouds and windows.  

More and more we are hearing conversations about damage caused by blue light, the light that gets emitted from our ubiquitous devices—cellphones, tablets and computers. This type of light can speed up signs of aging, resulting in more fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone*. And while it may be good for all of us to spend a little bit more time away from our screens, applying the right SPF daily will help prevent damage from blue light.

Most conventional SPFs cover UVB rays, but it is important to look for formulas with broad spectrum protection to guard your skin against both types of rays and blue light, like our Lavender Protective Moisturizer SPF 17

The Benefits of Mineral SPF

The difference between chemical and mineral SPF is in the way they work to protect your skin. Mineral SPFs use active ingredients like Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide to create a physical barrier on top of your skin that works by reflecting the sun’s rays. Because of this, mineral SPFs do not penetrate the skin, which tends to make them less irritating. We choose Zinc Oxide in both our formulas because in addition to sun protection, it is also an antibacterial, so it helps to get rid of congestion in the pores. Gone are the days of worrying about your sunscreen causing breakouts.

There is a stigma that mineral SPFs are chalky or less effective than chemical SPFs, but with today’s ingredient technology, this is no longer the case. Our formulas use Zinc Oxide that is micronized, meaning it has a smaller molecular structure than traditionally Zinc so that it blends easily without leaving a chalky residue behind, but unlike with nanoparticles, it does not get absorbed into the bloodstream. Zinc Oxide is the Environmental Working Group’s first choice for sun protection because it is stable in sunlight and can provide greater protection from UVA rays than Titanium Dioxide or any other sunscreen approved in the U.S.*

Chemical SPFs work by filtering UV rays. Ultraviolet light penetrates the skin and then chemicals like Oxybenzone, Avobenzone and Octisalate absorb the sun’s rays, transforming them into heat and then dispersing them from the body. Unlike mineral SPFs, chemical SPFs allow UV rays to penetrate the skin and the heat from the rays can break down the chemical filters, causing allergic reactions and irritation. And what’s worse, this heat can cause damage to your skin cells which has been linked to skin cancer.

Protect your Skin and The Earth

Mineral SPFs offer amazing sun protection, plus they are safe for the environment. Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in chemical SPF, and a 2016 study* reported that when Oxybenzone washes off in water, it can contaminate coral reefs, thus harming the aquatic ecosystem.


  • Lavender Protective Moisturizer SPF 17 For an everyday SPF, there’s nothing better than our Lavender Protective Moisturizer SPF 17. Not only does it provide broad spectrum protection, it also uses Turmeric an herb that has been shown to help inhibit tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanin production, meaning it could help prevent sun damage*. This SPF also features Lavender, a cleansing herb that can help calm breakouts.


Now that you’ve chosen your SPF, follow our application tips for best results.

Embrace the Sun! 

Unlike chemical SPFs that take about 15 minutes to work after applying, micronized Zinc Oxide begins working immediately so you can spend more time outside enjoying the sun.  

How to Apply

For best results, rub your SPF between your palms, then dab onto your chin, cheeks, forehead and décolleté. Using an upward stroke, massage the cream into your skin, beginning at the décolleté and finishing at the forehead. Allow 1-2 minutes for absorption.
In general, reapply your SPF every 2 hours, but if you are sweating or swimming, apply more frequently, about every 40 minutes.


Vandersee, Staffan et al. “Blue-Violet Light Irradiation Dose Dependently Decreases Carotenoids in Human Skin, Which Indicates the Generation of Free Radicals.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2015 (2015): 579675. PMC. Web. 23 May 2018.
Schlossman D, Shao Y. Inorganic ultraviolet filters. In: Shaath NA, editor. Sunscreens: regulation and commercial development. 3rd ed. Boca Raton (FL): Taylor & Francis, 2005: 239–79
Downs, C.A., Kramarsky-Winter, E., Segal, R. et al. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2016) 70: 265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7
Tu CX, Lin M, Lu SS et al. Curcumin inhibits melanogenesis in human melanocytes.