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What is SPF and what does it mean?

9 minutes

Loving the sun is so easy. Sunday brunch sitting on a lovely café terrace, sunbathing while on holidays, sitting poolside with a cocktail – who could say no to these? A little time in the sun is fun, but your skin needs sun protection no matter how long or what time of day you are out and about. You’ve probably heard about SPF being an essential part of your skin care routine, but what does SPF mean exactly? And how can your skin benefit from an SPF moisturiser? Read on to find out!


SPF is short for sun protection factor, and the higher the number that follows it, like SPF 50 for example, the more time you may be able to spend in the sun without getting sunburnt from its ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. We’ll cover this in more detail in the next section.

It’s worth noting that there are two types of UV rays that your skin needs protection against, UVA and UVB rays.

Protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays is indicated with the letters UVA in a circle, which is the European Union marking determining a level of UVA protection. In the UK you might also see stars on the bottle, with five stars offering the best protection.

If a product can protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, it’s called ‘broad-spectrum’ UV protection.


Simply put, the number after SPF indicates how much longer it may take for you to get sunburnt after you’ve applied SPF, compared to when you’re not using any SPF at all.

For example, if you usually start to get sunburnt after about 10 minutes without any sun protection, putting on an SPF 30 moisturiser will mean that you can spend approximately 5 hours in the sun without the risk of sunburn because 10 x 30 equals 300 minutes.

Keep in mind, this calculation, however, is just an estimate, because your risk of sunburn can depend on many factors like the weather, the season and the time of day. Plus, we don’t recommend figuring out how long it normally takes you to get sunburnt by spending time in the sun unprotected to see.

The takeaway message should be that although the sun protection factor number can be as low as 2 or as high as 50+, the higher this number, the better it is in terms of your protection against sunburn. The minimum recommended for daily use is 15, and it should provide UVA protection as well.

It’s also important to note that you should always follow the instructions on the pack or bottle about how often you should reapply, and if you still feel a bit uncertain, reapplying more often is always safer.

All about UV rays

The sun is responsible for up to 80 percent of the signs of premature skin ageing. So, no matter how much you love the sun, it’s important to protect your skin from its harmful rays. Read on to learn all about UV rays.


Although it’s not quite as black and white, there’s a trick that makes it a bit easier to understand the main difference between UVA and UVB rays in an easy way:

  • UVA ending with A is for ageing

  • UVB ending with B is for burning.

Exposure to UVA rays

Although both UVA and UVB rays are invisible, and we can’t feel them, we are exposed to both all year round. UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and even glass windows, so your skin needs protection even if it’s raining outside, or you’re just sitting by your living room window. When they reach your skin, UVA rays get deep into its surface, and over time they can cause visible skin ageing like fine lines and wrinkles.

Using a daily moisturiser with broad-spectrum UV protection can help fend off UVA rays and keep your skin looking younger for longer while also giving your skin the hydration it needs.


Our exposure to UVB rays varies by time, season and location. They also cause more skin damage at higher altitudes because the atmosphere is thinner so it can’t filter as many of the UVB rays out. This means using SPF on a ski trip or while mountain climbing is just as important as applying it while on the beach.

UV rays are also one of the main causes of skin cancer, so protection against both UVA and UVB rays is key not just for preserving your skin’s youthful look but also to protect your health.


The SPF number, likes SPF 30 or 50, on the label of a bottle isn’t just about how long you can spend out in the sun without getting burnt. The higher the SPF you use, the better because:

  • SPF 15 fends off 93% of UVB rays

  • SPF 30 fends off 97% of UVB rays

  • SPF 50 fends off 98% of UVB rays, however as you can see there’s very little difference as we go up in numbers.

When you choose your SPF face cream, always go for products with broad-spectrum UV, because it gives you protection against both UVA and UVB rays as opposed to those that protect only against UVB rays. All of our Olay collections contain an SPF variant while pampering, hydrating and nourishing your skin.

Why an SPF moisturiser?

Using moisturisers with SPF in the morning when you're going to be out and about might not be everyone's favourite thing to do, since many of these moisturisers with SPF feel heavy, sticky and greasy on the skin. Olay has a solution for that!

Olay Regenerist Whip Light Moisturiser With SPF30 absorbs instantly and has an ultra-lightweight feel, so you won’t have to wear an uncomfortable and heavy cream on your face to get the additional benefit of SPF. As a true multitasker, Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 30 also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and contains SPF 30 to give you a comfortable and hydrating barrier against the sun. It’s important to note that it should not be used a substitute for sunscreen.

Regenerist Whip Light Moisturiser With SPF30




If you already have a skin care routine, a moisturiser with SPF fits right into it. In terms of your regimen, your favourite Olay moisturiser with SPF comes at the same step as a regular moisturiser would – right after you’ve cleansed your face and applied any serum you’re using. Keep in mind, certain treatments, like eye creams, should always follow your moisturiser.

Apply the moisturiser with SPF liberally. Don’t forget the hairline, neck and décolletage to make sure all of those exposed areas get coverage.

The bottom line on SPF

Sun protection helps protect your skin against those invisible yet harmful UVA and UVB rays that are responsible for burning your skin and up to 80 percent of the signs of premature skin ageing. Don’t forget to apply SPF every day, no matter the weather, as UVA rays can penetrate overcast conditions, too.

To keep your morning skin care routine streamlined, a moisturiser with SPF can kill two birds with one stone. That way you can leave your home knowing you’re taking great care of not only how your skin looks but its health too.

Do you want to know more about how to prevent fine lines and wrinkles? Does your skin already show some signs of ageing? Olay is here to help. Check out our guide on an effective anti-ageing skin care routine to help you keep your youthful look longer.


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