Believe it or not, your skin is an organ; in fact, it’s the largest organ in the human body. It serves as a barrier to germs, helps prevent fluid loss, and covers your internal organs to protect them from injury. It also assists with body temperature control, releasing body wastes, and pain sensations. Still, many people don’t realize just how critical the skin’s functions are or how much of its damage comes from the sun. As a result, their lack of sun protection often leads to skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States!

Since we can’t stop ourselves from going in the sun altogether, the next best thing we could do is pick out the best sunscreen possible. To start, here are some frequently asked questions about sun protection:

What is SPF? How is it different from UPF?

Both SPF and UPF are measurements used for sunburn protection. SPF (Sunburn Protection Factor) is the measurement used for sunscreen and UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is a measurement used for fabrics.

What does the number next to SPF mean?

SPF is measured by the amount of time it would take UVB rays to sunburn your skin if you were not wearing sunscreen as opposed to the time it would take with sunscreen on.

Does a higher SPF mean that it’s safer?

The common belief is that the higher the SPF is, the stronger the protection is. However, if sunscreen isn’t applied properly to start with (you need one ounce for your body), or if it’s not reapplied enough (about every two hours), the number won’t make any difference. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of at least 30. Anything higher will only make a marginal difference. For example, SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent of UVB rays.

Now, with all of that in mind, you might have additional skincare concerns. It’s important to protect yourself from the sun, but you don’t want to clog your pores or look like a ghost. Here are some great products that include an SPF of at least 30, broad-spectrum protection (protect against both UVA and UVB rays), and water-resistant (FDA-approved for up to 40 minutes). A portion of every purchase from this post is donated to causes involved in the fight against skin cancer (click here to learn more).

 Australian Gold Spray Gel with Instant Bronzer SPF 30

Want to be tan and sun-safe at the same time?

Self-tanners and bronzers are the perfect alternatives to tanning booths or spending too much time in the sun. However, if you’re looking a double-deal, try combining your sunscreen with tanner! That way, every time you go to the beach, you can feel like you’ve come back with a tan.

Paula's Choice Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 50
Afraid of oily skin?

One of the reasons people hate applying sunscreen (myself included) is because it usually has an awkward, greasy composition. This sunscreen by Paula’s Choice has a silky texture with a matte finish, so you’ll just feel like you’re applying a pleasant, scent-free lotion onto your body. It was created for people with normal, oily, or combination skin.

If you’re a skeptical consumer, or if you just want to know if a brand’s claims are true, Paula’s Choice will put you at ease. On their site, every product page includes a tab with research to support the claims made for that particular item. So, when they said that this sunscreen was clinically proven to be non-irritating and not tested on animals, you can find the proof yourself.

Kiss My Face Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40 - 3 fl. oz.

Only want natural ingredients?

If you have sensitive skin, you might prefer mineral sunscreen instead of chemical sunscreen. In mineral sunscreens, the active ingredients are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Due to its natural ingredients, it may be a little bit more difficult to apply, but you just have to blend it in.

Want to learn more about sun safety? Click here.