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How many of you struggled with math in your formative years? Maybe you still have nightmares about your experiences. Alternatively, perhaps you were a math genius and still are – if so, good for you! Whatever you’re feelings about math, today I want to talk about the “new math” – that is, how to calculate your safe sunscreen SPF factor. It’s not as straight-forward as you might think!

When it comes to math we all know that 15 plus 20 = 35 right? Wrong! The type of math I am talking involves a whole different calculation to be considered. Speaking of consideration – you might be wondering why I am even talking about math when I am mostly known for my blogs about skin care. Here is why. When it comes to SPF factors and skin care, there is a “new math” calculation to consider.

SPF means Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet  rays. We all know it is an imperative that we use sunscreen and products containing SPF yet many of us don’t know how to use them properly. On a beautiful sunny day (yes, the sun will return one day soon I promise!) many women I know reach into their beauty cabinets for a moisturizer, perhaps containing a sun factor SPF of 15. Next step is they apply foundation and in this case, let’s assume it has an SPF of 20. “Great” you think to yourself, “I am now sporting a safe SPF of 35” and you happily go about your day thinking you are well protected from the sun. Here is where the new math comes in. Different products with different level SPF protection DO NOT add up to “total” sun protection.

Sunscreen might be flying off the shelves but layering sunscreen alone does not create an “additive” effect. You cannot expect to achieve increased sun protection just by layering. However, adding sunscreen ingredients into your routine will certainly at least help boost protection levels. In this case “layering” products one on top of the other will help but does not add up to total sun protection in the same way that using a product with an SPF of 60 would. However, for many women, the benefit of applying a moisturizer with an SPF of 20, followed by a foundation with SPF 15 and a pressed powder containing SPF 15 is that, while it might not be exactly the same as an SPF of 60, it does help increase your protection without the greasy feeling that comes from a liberal application of sunscreen.

Be sun smart this summer. Make sure all of your products contain an SPF factor and NEVER leave home without protection. If you are particularly sensitive, using high SPF products alone is critical. For most of us, just making sure that we have SPF in all of our skin care products, combined with the use of sunscreen is enough but beware the “new math.” 1 + 1 does not always = 2 so make sure you are layering “Sun smart!”