SPF Decoded: Every term you need to know to protect your skin against the sun

SPF Decoded: Every term you need to know to protect your skin against the sun

Feeling more than a little bit befuddled by sunscreens and which ones you should be opting for?

Not sure what UVA, UVB and SPF actually mean?

Or battling between chemical and mineral sunscreens, unsure of what the differences are?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Shopping for a good SPF can feel like trying to translate a foreign language. That’s why, in this blog post, we decode all of the terms that you need to know to make sure that you’re giving your skin the protection it deserves. 


This is a type of ultraviolet ray from the sun, with a longer wavelength that penetrates deeply into the skin. It is associated closely with skin cancers and is what causes the skin to burn.


This is another type of ultraviolet ray from the sun, which has a shorter wavelength. It is the ray that is associated with premature ageing.


This acronym stands for “sun protection factor”. So, put simply, it refers to how well a suncream will protect your skin against the sun, specifically in regards to UVB rays. The higher the number, the more protection you have!

Here’s a rough idea of what different SPFs look like in terms of protection levels:

SPF 15 is said to filter out 93% of rays 

SPF 30 is said to filter out 97% of rays 

SPF 50 is said to filter out 99% of rays 


A broad-spectrum sunscreen is one that protects against UVB and UVA rays. That means that you’re much less likely to get a sunburn, risk skin cancers and also cause damage to the collagen levels of your skin.

Evolve’s Climate Veil Tinted SPF20 is the perfect example and one of our everyday SPF staples. 

Reef safe 

Chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidene, octocrylene and butyl-paraben have been linked to the destruction of coral reefs. It has been suggested that the ingredients, when washed into the ocean, stop the coral from being able to reproduce.

Therefore, reef-safe sunscreens do not contain these ingredients.

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical SPFs filter UV rays by absorbing them and transforming them into heat, which is then dispersed from the body.

Chemical SPFs are often smoother to apply and don’t tend to leave a white cast. However, they can contain ingredients that are not reef-safe. 

It is recommended that you apply chemical SPFs 15-30 minutes before going into the sun for optimal protection.

Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral SPFs create a physical barrier on the skin, which reflects most of the sun’s rays. This means that they are often thicker than chemical SPFs, but they don’t penetrate the skin so can cause less irritation. Plus, they are usually reef-safe. 

Mineral SPFs also start working more quickly than chemical SPFs, meaning less time is needed between application and going out into the sun.

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