Which SPF Sunscreen Do You Need? A Celeb Skin Expert Weighs In

"90% of premature aging comes from the sun."

By Alanah Joseph May 17, 2017 7:02 PMTags
ESC: Priyanka ChopraMCCFL / Splash News

Summer is here! Bring out the bikinis, fruity drinks and cat-eye sunglasses!

Life is good. Until, of course, you realize that your sunscreen-less skin is aging under those harsh UV rays. It's easy to be lazy on summer days (or really any day of the year) and forget to protect your skin, but skipping this beauty step could cause a lot of harm. 

There are few reasons why sunscreen is commonly an afterthought. First, the scent of most sunscreen products leave much to be desired. No one really wants to smell like a big banana or hot chemicals. Second, the thick, white consistency of most formulas instantly rip you away from your summer glow. That pasty residue is not going to make you look Baywatch-hot. And finally, with all of the numbers and acronyms, who's to know if you're using the right sunscreen? It's all so confusing. 

Best Beauty Products of Spring 2017

Let's clear some things up. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) refers to the amount of time your skin can be exposed to ultraviolet (UV) B rays. "In general, it takes about 25 minutes without sunscreen to start burning," stated Angela Caglia, celebrity skin expert. "For example, an SPF 15 product will prevent the skin from burning 15 times longer, given you between two and three hours with that application before you start burning." After two to three hours, it's time to reapply.

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Whether you're going to the beach or casually enjoying the day, per Karlie Kloss, sunscreen is vital. Driving and running errands can easily lead to incidental sun exposure. "Ninety percent of premature aging comes from the sun," the beauty pro warned. "For everyday use, I recommend at least an SPF 15." She really means every day. Although many believe that the sun is only damaging when it's bright and sunny, beware: Cloudy skies can also transmit damaging UV rays.

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When there's clear skies, it's hard to resist being outside. Hiking, volleyball, outdoor yoga and picnics in the park sound very appealing when it's sunny. However, this extended time in the sun requires more protection. But, how much more?

"A sunscreen with an SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of the sun's dangerous rays, but an SPF 30 isn't DOUBLE the protection as many people assume," she revealed. "SPF 30 is just a few points higher and blocks about 96 percent. SPF 45 blocks about 97 percent." So if you're taking your dog on a long hike per Kate Hudson, the expert recommends SPF 30, at minimum.

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Taking a dip on a Baywatch-inspired beach day per Priyanka Chopra? You'll need a sunscreen that's at least SPF 30 and water-resistant. And, you'll need to reapply every couple of hours. A sunscreen spray may be easiest in these scenarios.

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Although we all want that radiant summer glow (See: Karrueche Tran), burning or causing damage to the skin isn't going to get us there. If you plan on laying in the sun for an extended amount of time, SPF 45 is the best option.

Pro tip: If you have sensitive skin or rather stay away from chemicals, try mineral-based sunscreens that are made with zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which block UV rays.

Looking for a sunscreen that fits your lifestyle? Check out our editor picks below!

La Roche-Posay

To measure your skin's exposure to UV rays: My UV Patch, $40 

Drunk Elephant

Angela's Pick: Umbra™ Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30, $34

Suntegrity Skincare

Angela's Pick: SPF 30 Natural Mineral Sunscreen For Body, $24


Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen, $36

PIXI by Petra

Sun Mist, $18

PCA Skin

Sheer Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 45, $49


Tinted Bronzing Continuous Spray All Mineral + Caffeine SPF 30, $15.99


Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 50, $64


Suncare Signature Travel Kit, $39.99

You're radiant!

For all of the best spring beauty launches, click here!