Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

The 411 on how to properly read a Sunscreen bottle

words by: Natasha Marsh
Feb 5, 2021

COVID-19 has given me time to perfect all my routines, specifically my skincare routine. Previously, I didn’t have patience for sunscreen. I know what you’re thinking, how does someone need patience for sunscreen? But when you live in New York and are constantly on the go, sunscreen becomes an afterthought. 


This year I’ve learned the importance of investing in a good SPF and now apply sunscreen in all weather conditions, rain or shine – even indoors. There are a lot of myths that come with sunscreen and a lot of ingredients. To help you decipher all those long words on the back of the bottle, we put together a little glossary. Soon you’ll be able to lather up with ease. 



Basically measures the total time the sunscreen will protect you. To make it simple, if your skin typically burns within 5 minutes of sun (sans sunscreen), SPF 15 will protect you for 75 minutes (5 times 15). But it’s also a percentage measurement. SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. So it’s a good idea to select the highest SPF you can find. 


Reef Safe

Although sunscreen is good for the body, some have chemicals – like oxybenzone and octinoxate – that damage the coral reefs in the ocean. If you tend to swim a lot in the ocean, look for a sunscreen that has the reef safe sticker on it. Protect our oceans! 


Broad Spectrum

Acts as a shield against both UVA and UVB rays. Both can penetrate the skin and potential cause health problems so invest in a sunscreen that has a broad spectrum. 


Active Ingredients

The FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients.



Many sunscreens boast about being water-resistant but no sunscreen is actually waterproof. As we shared earlier, sunscreen can only protect you for a limited amount of time, which is why most state to reapply. Remember, the sunscreen only works if it’s on your skin. 


Antioxidant protection

Antioxidants in sunscreen act as another protector. If UV rays get through the sunscreen, the antioxidants help destroy the free radicals before they do damage to your skin.