What Is The Highest SPF Available? The Answer Might Surprise You

We know, we know. Spending time in the sun can lead to burns, which can invite a host of other skin and health problems to our door (including cancer). Going out without SPF is bad news, but what is the highest SPF? And should we be wearing it? Here's the low down.

SPF stands for "sun protection factor," or exactly how well a product protects your skin from ultraviolet B (UBV) rays. It sounds simple enough, but fancy labeling can send your head into a tailspin. We have waterproof, water-resistant, sweat-proof, SPF 15, 20, 30, 60, and even 100. Generally, SPF 100 is the highest protection you can buy, but it's not necessarily the best protection against a sunburn.

According to Penn State Prevention Research Center, proper and repeated application of sunscreen is more important than the SPF number.

"Imagine that your skin normally begins to burn after 10 minutes in full sun without any protection. A 30 SPF sunscreen would provide 30 times the protection of no sunscreen," said Kimberly Mallett, research associate in the Penn State Prevention Research Center. "Reapplying sunscreen does not start the clock over. The SPF numbers are not exact, and results vary by individual, since some skin types burn faster than others. Even if the sunscreen has a SPF of 100, claims to be sweat-proof and waterproof, and provides all-day protection, it needs to be reapplied to provide optimal protection"

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In general, Mallett advises reaching for a waterproof sunscreen with at least an SPF 30. She's not the only one — dermatologist Gary Goldfaden suggests applying "an SPF of 30 or higher...to the face daily." As far as how many times? "If you’re sweating or in direct sun," reapply at least two to three times throughout the day.

Here are a few of my favorite sunscreen picks.

1. Kiss My Face Sunscreen

Kiss My Face Sunscreen, $16, drugstore.com

Spray lotions make reapplying easy, quick, and mess-free.

2. CeraVe Sunstick

CeraVe Sunstick, $10, drugstore.com

I love keeping a stick on hand or in my bag to apply to face, lips, and body when I start to feel the heat.

3. SoftLips

SoftLips, $4, drugstore.com

Keeping your lips protected is important too, and this is my favorite SPF lip balm for the summertime.

4. Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen

Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen, $25, sephora.com

It's water-resistant and easy to reapply on the go!

5. Clinique Broad Spectrum Body Cream

Clinique Broad Spectrum Body Cream, $23, sephora.com

Just because it has SPF in it doesn't mean it shouldn't be luxurious. This body cream is moisturizing and protecting, so your skin will thank you many times over.

6. Goldfaden MD Sun Visor SPF 30

Sun Visor SPF30, $45, net-a-porter.com

Spray this SPF mist over your makeup for a non-greasy finish that protects you from the sun.

Don't leave home without one — or wearing one — of these this summer!

Images: Unsplash; Courtesy of Brands