The higher the better, right? When you’re talking about SPF (Sun Protection Factor) that may not be the case! What’s the full story on SPF ratings and what they mean? If a higher SPF doesn’t give better protection, what’s the optimal rating to look for? Should I check for anything else when buying a sunscreen? Hale Cosmeceuticals has some help for you on this.
Sun Protection Factor: What Does It Mean?
In 1962, an Austrian scientist named Franz Greiter developed the concept of SPF and it’s become the global standard for measuring just how effective a sunscreen really is. Sunscreen works by blocking the damaging radiation resulting from exposure to sunlight. This consists of two different rays, UVA and UVB.
Breaking down the numbers, SPF is determined with a baseline of ‘how long will this sunscreen let you remain exposed without burning?’ For example, if you’d normally burn after about 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 15 would let you stay outdoors 15 times longer than 10 minutes without being burned.
This is combined with the effectiveness of the sunscreen itself– the composition of it, how much radiation will it reflect –to determine an SPF rating. It’s not a clear climbing scale though! An SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays on average while an SPF 50 blocks 98%. The SPF scale is focused on UVB rays, not UVA. While UVB rays are the ones which cause painful sunburn, UVA rays are more insidious. We don’t feel them, but they’re known to cause deeper skin damage which could lead to skin cancer.
How Do I Choose an SPF?
You’ve seen that the higher SPF rating doesn’t necessarily mean better protection. After all, an SPF 100 blocks about 99% of UVB rays, but an SPF 50 blocks 98%. The ratings are higher, but the protection isn’t significantly greater. This can mislead people into believing that their SPF 100 sunscreen is going to let them stay in the sun far longer than they should.
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 rating. Another key factor is to look for a ‘broad-spectrum’ sunscreen which protects against UVB and UVA rays. Avoiding sunburn now is good for your skin, but protecting it against worse long term damage is just as important.
What’s all important about sunscreen is the application. Even an SPF 50 won’t be able to protect your skin if it isn’t properly applied. Complete coverage of exposed areas at least 30 minutes before going outdoors is recommended, and if you’re going to be outdoors for a lengthy time, reapply your sunscreen after 15 minutes. Taking the time to put on a little extra protection after that, usually every 2 hours, can be the big difference in preventing premature aging!
Hale Cosmeceuticals has a natural sunscreen with SPF 35+ available which can be reapplied to protect your skin from the hazards of daily life, indoors and out. Remember to apply a lot and apply often rather than rely on a high SPF rating for protection!