All your SPF questions answered

Ah, SPF. A topic much discussed and so confusing you’d almost wish you didn’t care about it. But once you get into learning more, you’re a slave of your bottle of sun protection. Really. I’ve taken on the habit of wearing SPF on my face almost every day (especially since I’ve started using exfoliating acids) and I’m a naggy reminder for other people to do so, too. A while ago I asked you to send me everything you want to know about SPF – today I’m sharing all the answers.


01. What do UVA and UVB on my bottle of SPF mean?

UVA are long-wave rays and cause ageing of the skin by damaging your cellular DNA.

UVB are short-wave rays and cause sun burns. You need to be protected against both.

02. How often should I reapply sunscreen?

Thinking that you’re protected all day if you apply SPF in the morning is obviously crazy. I also often read that sunscreen would degrade as you spend more time in the sun. That’s not true: sunscreen degrades because it just simply washes off your skin due to sweat and just living. Even if you do nothing. Your skin still lives.

You should reapply your sunscreen every two hours at least, and always after going into the water or sweating heavily.

03. If I use waterproof SPF, should I not reapply after swimming?

There’s no such thing as waterproof SPF. Sunscreen can only be water resistant, meaning that when you’re in the pool you’re still protected, but it will still wash off so you have to reapply after getting out of the water. Always.

04. I hardly ever get a sunburn, does that mean I need less SPF?

No. That’s a dangerous thought. As stated above, there’s a difference between UVA and UVB rays. Although you may be less affected by UVB rays because you don’t get a sunburn, your skin is still being damaged. You may not feel it now, but you’ll definitely pay the price later.

05. Is it true that I can’t use last year’s sunscreen? Do I really need to buy a new bottle every year?

Yep. Like all active ingredients in cosmetics, sun protection degrades. There’s a little icon on your bottle that tells you for how many months you can keep it (it’s a little box with a number + M on it). Of course, it’s a waste to throw everything away and that’s why I advice you to not stock up too much on SPF – just buy it when you need it.

06. What about SPF over skin care and makeup? What do I apply first? Isn’t it too much layering up? Is a moisturizer or foundation with SPF a better option?

SPF should always be applied as the last step in your skin care routine. Make sure your moisturizer is worked into your skin nicely before applying sunscreen on top. If it’s too much layering for you, you can definitely opt for a moisturizer/tinted cream/foundation with SPF but then you need to make sure to use plenty.

Makeup can be used on top of SPF for sure, but just keep in mind that if you’re going to be out in the sun all day you’ll have to reapply. A sunscreen mist is a good option then, but you also have to use enough and make sure you cover every spot.

07. What about vitamin D? We’re told to keep out of the sun but then also, we’re told that we need it?

Yes, you need vitamin D. No, you do not need to be in the sun to get it. You get your vitamin D from your food intake and from natural daylight. Direct UV rays are harmful and not how you get your vitamin D. And if you have a deficiency, you need to take a supplement, especially in Winter when the days are shorter and if you’re a woman over 50.

08. Using SPF seems to irritate my sensitive skin or break me out. What do I use?

If your skin is really sensitive, SPF can be irritating indeed. Try to opt for a mineral/physical sunscreen instead, like the ones from Coola. Instead of absorbing the light like a chemical SPF, they reflect it and therefore are a bit more gentle on your skin. There’s a lot to do about whether mineral SPFs (using zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) is better or worse than chemical SPFs, but I’m not going to go too far into that because I suspect the divided opinions prove of a lack of research.

The other Coola-products available are also really good for sensitive skin as they contain a lot less ingredients. I love how soft and gentle they are.

As for breakouts, remember to always double cleanse your face (so cleanser, rinse, more cleanser, rinse) if you’ve used SPF. It’s made to stick onto your skin so you need to do a little bit more effort to clean it all off.

If you’re very acne prone however, opt for an oil-free SPF or a mineral one as well.

Any more questions? Hit me up in the comments and I’ll get back to you! 

My SPF recommendations: