Sunday - Oct 17, 2021

What SPF Levels Should you Use?


Are you confused about what Sun Protection Factor or also popularly known as SPF level is good for you? You may observe that for the past few years, the SPF levels are continuously rising; in fact some products even reach up to SPF 100+. The higher the SPF, the better it is, right?

The American Academy of Dermatology noted that the best level is SPF30. So does this mean that higher sunscreen levels are more effective? Not necessarily, according to experts but regulators have put rules that will limit the use of higher SPF levels.

What is the Best SPF level?

For daily or everyday use, the best sunscreen levels are SPF30 but for those who want to go out for outdoor activities, SPF50 is recommended. SPF30 means your skin will be protected against ultraviolet radiation from the sun for around 30 minutes; this is adequate for persons who have lower levels of sun exposure.  After 30 minutes, the effect will be gone, so you have to apply again a sunscreen lotion. Thus, for longer outdoor activities, higher SPF is recommended.

Is Higher SPF-Sunscreen more effective?

When you are shopping around for sunscreen, you will notice that some products have higher sun protection factor ratings.  Does SPF 100+ or SPF 90+ better than SPF 30? It can be logical for someone to think that SPF100+ is better than SPF30, but SPF does not work that way.

Sun Protection Factor refers to the capability of the sunscreen product to block the ultraviolet B or UVB rays that primarily causes sunburns.  But it is not as effective in blocking UVA rays which can cause deeper damage to skin.  Both UVB and UVA are considered to increase the risk of getting skin cancer.

SPF rating is used to measure the duration for you to suffer from sunburn if you are not wearing sunscreen as opposed to the time if the sunscreen is on. For example, products with SPF15 blocks around 94% of harmful UVB rays, SPF30 blocks 97%, SPF45 blocks 98% of UVB rays and so on and so forth. Sunscreen products having higher SPF rating could block UVB rays slightly higher as compared with lower SPF levels. 

But keep in mind that none of these products can offer 100% protection against UVB rays. Thus, this is the reason why SPF30 is already an acceptable level for most dermatologists.  According to experts in personal care products, the difference between medium to higher SPF sunscreen levels is not that much.  But then, higher SPF products have better protection against long-term exposure to prevent skin related cancer and further skin damage.

Whatever sunscreen products you choose, dermatologist recommends using water-resistant sunscreen. Apply it liberally an hour and a half before doing your outdoor activities.  You should reapply the sunscreen depending on the SPF levels but usually use it after sweating, drying off, and or swimming.   Higher SPF can be reapplied every two hours.

The most effective way to fully protect you against UVB rays is to apply sunscreen regularly.  If possible apply sunscreen in the morning then after two hours again, depending on your outdoor activities.  Remember that the protective levels of SPF depend on its ratings, so after a few hours the effect will be gone.

Why FDA Regulated High SPF Products?

There are lots of sunscreen products in the market that offers super-high SPF levels.  This has caught the attention of FDA, thus, last 2011; they started to draft new sunscreen rules to avoid the public’s confusion.   FDA recently recommends changing the sunscreen labels, sooner the highest level of SPF that will be available in the market is SPF50+.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the changes to regulate how sunscreens are being marketed to ensure that sunscreens are able to meet the safety standards.  This will also help address the confusion issues raised by the consumers.  If they have the right information, they will be able to choose the appropriate sun protection for them and for their families.

One should note that sunscreen is used to protect your skin from UVB rays not for UVA rays that causes skin cancer and skin aging.   UVA rays are also more prevalent compared with UVB so it can penetrate more deeply in the layers of the skin. FDA recommends that products should specify whether it can protect UVB alone or it has also protective properties against UVA.  This can be seen with products mentioning “SPF rating plus broad spectrum” claims.

It is also important to note that regardless of your skin type, you can use any levels of SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology does not have any recommended levels of SPF that would depend on the skin tone. With this information, consumers will know which product offers the best sun protection that will give them the best benefit.

Labeling rules will help consumers to have an awareness of the product and to prevent them from getting confused about increasing levels of SPF. SPF is said to be not a consumer friendly number so users should have a full understanding of the labeling so they can choose the right product.  It is also important to protect yourself from prolong sun exposure by wearing protective clothing while outdoors, and stay away from the sun particularly in midday hours like 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.