How Much SPF Your Sunscreen Should Have
When you’re faced with lots of sunscreen options, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the different types and brands. But the first thing that really matters is the SPF. Let’s talk about what is the minimum SPF you should be reaching for next time you buy sunscreen.
What is the Sun Protection Factor?
By understanding what SPF measures, we can decide how much is right for us.
SPF is an acronym for Sun Protection Factor, a measurement of how long it takes someone to burn with and without the sunscreen. An SPF of 10, for example, means that it took participants in that sunscreen’s tests 10 times longer to burn while wearing it. Obviously, the higher the SPF, the longer you could theoretically go without burning and the more protection you are getting from damaging UV rays.
So what SPF is enough?
The FDA seems to think that SPF 15 is required according to its sunscreen regulations, but most dermatologists and skin cancer specialists seem to conclude that SPF 30 is the minimum to truly protect against damage. Those with lighter skin tones are advised to wear higher SPF sunscreen and to wear it and reapply it more often.
Is any sunscreen ok?
Another thing to consider is whether or not the sunscreen is broad spectrum. This is where it also filters a relative percent of UVA rays proportional to its SPF rating. UVA contributes to tanning, ageing and skin cancer. For protecting yourself completely, broad spectrum sunscreen is key.
What should you look for?
In the US and Australia, these sunscreens must have the words “Broad Spectrum” on the front of the bottle.
In Europe, there is a circle with ‘UVA’ printed inside it, used as an indicator of a sunscreen that offers 1/3rd UVA protection for the SPF rating. This means it’s broad spectrum.
In Asia, the letters ‘PA‘ followed by some ‘+’ signify show the UVA protection. You want to aim to get a sunscreen that is labelled +++ or ++++ for maximum protection.
Is higher always better? What about SPF 70 or 100?
The lines become blurred once you get above SPF 50, and that is why Australia has disallowed labelling over this number (and the US is also attempting to at the moment) . SPF 50 AND SPF 100 protect from a very similar percentage of rays – 98% vs 99% respectively. You need to be reapplying sunscreen more regularly than these sunscreens will protect you for anyway! They also tend to be thicker and less cosmetically elegant, meaning you wont want to wear them as much.
In summary, I believe an SPF 30+ Broad-Spectrum (with the UVA circle or PA+++ where applicable) sunscreen is ideal. You should be able to find a range of these at any local pharmacy or store. Use it every day!
See you next time,