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Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is a guide to show you how long you can wear a specific type of sunscreen. People need different types of sunscreen and different SPF factors depending on how long they plan to be out in the sun and what sort of skin type they have.
A person with skin type I, or white, sensitive skin, should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 if they plan to be outside for just one hour. Someone with dark skin, a skin type of VI, would only need an SPF of 4 for the same amount of time.
The SPF number would go up depending on how long you would like to be outside with one application. The problem comes from how much people use and how often they reapply. You need to use a good amount of sunscreen. Most people use only a thin layer. You'll need to put on a generous amount and reapply ever hour to be able to use the sunscreen with SPF effectively.