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What SPF Does Your Client Need?

Posted: May 3, 2010

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Level 6 skin is black skin that never burns and always tans, though a tan is usually not apparent due to depth of natural skin color.

Regardless of your skin color and how easily you tan, wrinkles, skin discolorations and skin cancers are primarily caused by unprotected sun exposure.

Next, do the math

Your Level of Sunburn Risk x by the SPF Rating = Safe Sun Exposure for Your Skin Color

The SPF number is a rating that determines how long clients can stay in the sun without burning when they wear that product without needing to reapply it. It does not indicate quality of protection, just length of time. Here's how to do the math. If you have:

  • Level 1 skin (very fair): That means you usually get a burn in about 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure. Determining your skin's response to various SPF ratings works like this:
  • SPF 15 x 20 minutes = 300 minutes (5 hours) of protection
  • SPF 30 x 20 minutes = 600 minutes (10 hours) of protection
  • SPF 45 x 20 minutes = 900 minutes (15 hours) of protection
  • Level 2 skin (fair to light): That means you usually get a burn in about 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure. Determining your skin's response to various SPF ratings works like this:
  • SPF 15 x 30 minutes = 450 minutes (7.5 hours) of protection
  • SPF 30 x 30 minutes = 900 minutes (15 hours) of protection
  • SPF 45 x 30 minutes = 1,350 minutes (22.5 hours) of protection
  • Level 3 skin (light to medium/olive): That means you usually get a burn in about 40 minutes of unprotected sun exposure. Determining your skin's response to various SPF ratings works like this:
  • SPF 15 x 40 minutes = 600 minutes (10 hours) of protection
  • SPF 30 x 40 minutes = 1,200 minutes (20 hours) of protection
  • SPF 45 x 40 minutes = 1,800 minutes (30 hours) of protection
  • Level 4 skin (medium to tan): That means you usually get a burn in about 60 minutes of unprotected sun exposure. Determining your skin's response to various SPF ratings works like this:
  • SPF 15 x 60 minutes = 900 minutes (15 hours) of protection
  • SPF 30 x 60 minutes = 1,800 minutes (30 hours) of protection
  • SPF 45 x 60 minutes = 2,700 minutes (45 hours) of protection
  • Level 5 and Level 6 skin (brown to dark brown or black): That means you usually get a burn in about 120 minutes (2 hours) of unprotected sun exposure. Determining your skin's response to various SPF ratings works like this:
  • SPF 15 x 120 minutes = 1.800 minutes (*30 hours) of protection
  • SPF 30 x 120 minutes = 3,600 minutes (60 hours) of protection
  • SPF 45 x 120 minutes = 5,400 minutes (90 hours) of protection

* Note that level 5 and 6 skin should do just fine with a well-formulated sunscreen rated SPF 15. However, liberal applications is still important. If you do not think you'll be applying the sunscreen as liberally as you should, consider a sunscreen rated SPF 30.