Sunscreen jargon explained

Do you know what to look for when choosing a sunscreen product? Are you across the different terminologies used on the label, such as “broad-spectrum” and “SPF”? A new study indicates that many people don’t understand sunscreen jargon and have misconceptions about the level of protection they’re actually getting.

In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, only 12 per cent of people correctly understood that the SPF value specifies the protection the product provides against the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.


sunscreen jargon


Only 30 per cent of the nearly 500 people surveyed knew that broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA rays.

The study also revealed that prior sunscreen counselling or a single visit to the skin doctor significantly improved a person’s sunscreen knowledge.

So, what does that jargon on the sunscreen bottle mean?

  • Broad-spectrum: Sunscreen that protects against both UVA radiation (responsible for premature skin ageing) and UVB radiation (the cause of sunburns). Always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen to fully protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
  • SPF: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and an SPF of 30 will block 97 per cent of the sun’s UVB rays. Choose an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.
  • Water resistant: Water resistant sunscreen products will protect your skin for longer when you swim or sweat. You still need to reapply regularly, but it won’t wash off as easily as non-water resistant products.

Learn more about sunscreen – including the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens – on this blog here.

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