Did you know regular SPF only protects you for less than 2 hours?
While we’ve made it clear that wearing SPF is the single most important thing you can do for your skin, what if we told you that SPF isn’t enough? Yes, unfortunately most regular SPF only protects your skin for 40-80 minutes. Yes, that’s literally less than 2 episodes of your favourite show. So what that means is that after 40-80 minutes, you need to reapply the SPF for it to really protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. It sounds like a lot, we know. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.
But before we get into what you can do and how to manage this very short 80 minute window of sun protection, let’s get deep and understand how SPF works and why its efficacy wears off after 2 hours.
So for instance, if you put on an SPF 50 sunblock at 10 am, by noon you’re probably still getting some protection but it won’t be that of SPF 50, it’ll probably be close to SPF 10 or even lower. And if there’s anything you learned from our previous blog post “Everyday Suncare vs Holiday Suncare”, any SPF lower than 35 is no good at all.
So even if the label says 4 hours and is water resistant, unfortunately that doesn’t mean that you can take a dip in the sea and come back 2 hours later and still have any protection. Because real life activities like being at the beach, playing sports, or working outdoors, causes sunscreen to quickly wear off its efficacy. Actions such as towel drying, wiping off sweat, contact with surfaces (e.g. clothing or chairs), or the friction of waves or water when swimming, all remove some sunscreen from our body.
But while it might make sense that towel drying or wiping off sweat means that your sunscreen comes off too, do you really need to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours even if you’re sitting in your air conditioned office distantly dreaming about being in a bikini or chilling in your swimming trunks? And especially all suited and booted or dolled up with a full face of makeup, running between meetings - reapplying sunscreen really doesn’t seem ideal. So if when you’re at the beach, it usually takes around 2 hours to make your sunscreen completely useless, how long does it take for your sunscreen to wear off at the office? The truth is it’s impossible to tell.
A good way to evaluate whether or not you’re one of the unlucky few who need to reapply sunscreen even while sat suited up at the office, is to judge where you sit. If you’re someone who sits near big windows that let the sunshine come pouring through, then yes, you probably do have to reapply your sunscreen at least once during the day. But if the blinds are usually down, and your office is quite dark or your cabin is tucked away at the back, then just a thin layer of sunscreen in the morning should be enough to get you through the day.
But whether you sit in a relatively dark office or an office with big windows, since SPF only protects you for 40-80 minutes, if you aren’t reapplying your sunscreen often enough, your skin needs a whole lot of TLC at the end of the day. Because whether you’re spending hours in direct sunlight, or just basking in the common room of your workplace, the sun is damaging your skin in some way. So depending on how much you’re exposing your skin to the sun, you will need to figure out how much attention your skin needs after the day. Which brings us to our favourite, unsung hero - aftersun care. But don’t worry if you don’t understand what that means. We’ll be back soon with more on that.