One of the most common questions we get from our friends is: “How do I read my sunscreen label, and what should I look for?” Trust us, we get it—we work in sunscreen and, even for us, deciphering the information on some can sunscreen packaging can feel like the riddle of the Sphinx.
Our whole aim at Bare Republic is to make sunscreen easy, so in our view, understanding sunscreen labels and ingredients should be far from a foggy experience. Read on for our Bare basics on how to read a sunscreen label, and which particular pieces of info are most important in choosing an adventure-ready sunscreen:
Bare Basics: SPF, Water Resistance, and Broad Spectrum
The front of sunscreen bottles is (obviously) a good place to start. Here are the key things to look for on your sunscreen label—
- SPF Value: We’ve lost count of how many studies have shown that most sun-lovers don’t know what SPF means; suffice to say the numbers would blow your boardshorts off. SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” and is meant to measure how much longer it takes untanned skin protected with the sunscreen to burn, versus untanned skin without the sunscreen. An SPF of 50, for example, indicates that it would take untanned skin 50 times longer to burn when the sunscreen is used.
- Broad Spectrum: An absolute must-have, “Broad Spectrum” means that the sunscreen will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause skin cancer.
- Water Resistance: We live in San Diego, which means we’re sporty water-folks by default (and usually sweatier than we’d like to admit, shhh). When we’re looking for sunscreen that will stick with us through surfs and swims and hikes, we always check for a “Sweat-resistant” or “Water-resistant” claim, for a duration of either 40 or 80 minutes.
SPF Part 2: Some Common Sense Reminders
Remember that thing we mentioned about the riddle of the Sphinx? SPF isn’t always the most user-friendly of metrics: we think it’s one of the sunscreen details that causes the most frustration—and the most frustrated (i.e., red) skin. Here are a few extra tips from our years in sunscreen:
- We always—regardless of activity—look for a minimum SPF of 30. SPF isn’t a case where less = more.
- No matter the SPF number, we reapply every 80 minutes when we’re out adventuring. One tricky thing about SPF is that it’s a number calculated in a lab setting—which means it doesn’t account for factors like sweat, swims, or sand. Reapplication is still the name of the unburned game.
- Application is key. Doing a thorough job of applying SPF 30 will beat a patchy SPF 70 application any minute, of any day, of any week.
Details: Ingredients, Manufacturing Information, Packaging
After we check for the big three above, we like to take a gander at the sides and back of the bottle for some additional information on ingredients, manufacturing practices and safety, and packaging components. Here are a few things we always keep an eye on—
- Active Ingredients: This list refers to the ingredients, either mineral (like our Vanilla Coco Mineral Lotion or chemical (like Bare Republic Clearscreen), that protect the skin against UV rays.
- Manufacturing Practices: There’s no standard placement for information on manufacturing and product standards, but we always like to check for things like ; at Bare Republic, we sprinkle it on the sides, back, and front of our products. Look for symbols and language that confirms if the sunscreen is vegan, cruelty-free, made in the USA, and Hawaii Reef Compliant—like all Bare Republic products.
- Recyclability: Because Earth’s our favorite planet—and our favorite playground—we always check to see if the packaging is recyclable.