How much SPF does your skin need?
Not all forms of sun protection are the same. As sunlight (measured by the UV index) becomes more intense, sunscreens and day creams with higher SPF are required. Your skin type is the decisive factor in determining the correct SPF.
The six types of skin
There are six different skin types, with types 1 to 4 being most common in Europe. Type 1 (Celtic type) has very fair skin and a high risk of skin cancer; type 2 skin (Nordic type) is somewhat less fair, but tans very slowly; type 3 (mixed type) is somewhat darker and tans more easily, while type 4 (Mediterranean type) always has a slightly brown hue, tans easily and has only a slight risk of skin cancer. Skin type 5 tans very easily and rarely burns, similar to type 6 which has dark brown or black skin that will still darken and almost never burns when exposed to UV-light. By multiplying the SPF in a cream by your skin’s own intrinsic protection time (dependent on skin type), you can calculate the number of minutes that you can confidently spend in the midday sun in Northern and Central Europe (max. UV index 8).
A simple rule of thumb
If you’d prefer to avoid math, there is a simple rule of thumb: The most common skin types in Europe (types 1–4) require an SPF of at least 25 (type 1), 20 (type 2) or 15 (types 3 and 4) only when the UV index reaches 9 or above (Mediterranean or high mountain regions, near water).
The bottom line?
For a UV index of up to 8, an SPF of 10 to 20 is entirely sufficient. To protect your skin against the sun in Northern and Central Europe (maximum UV index during the summer in Berlin = 7), you certainly do not need a day cream with an SPF of 30 or more.