Myth #8: The Higher the SPF (sun protection factor) the better the protection.

Almost 100 years ago Coco Chanel started a new trend in fashion and lifestyle. Golden brown tanned skin began to represent beauty, health and became a sign of higher social status. At the time, only wealthy people could afford leisure time in the sun.

Nowadays, golden brown skin still trends. In the last 100 years, we learned that 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation also causes eye damage, immune system suppression, and up to 90 percent of the changes commonly attributed to aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin, and brown spots.

An interesting fact is that French woman started Tanning fever and the company that brought the first sunscreen to the market was also from France. L’Oreal introduced the first sunscreen in 1936.
Using sunscreens is the best way to prevent damaging effects of the sun on the skin.The SPF number varies from 4 to 50 and represents how long a person can be out in the sun without burning. Does the age-old adage of “the bigger, the better” actually applies to SPF? Does the higher SPF factor grantees, the better protection?

Truth: a higher SPF does not mean better protection. Look at the chart below:

  • SPF 2-4 – blocks 50-75% UV
  • SPF 4-10 – blocks 85% UV
  • SPF 10-20 – blocks 95% UV
  • SPF 20-30 — blocks 98% UV
  • SPF 50 – blocks 99% UV.

A higher SPF gives a false sense of security. An SPF of 50 is only marginally more protective than an SPF of 15; an SPF of 30 has only 3% more protection than an SPF of 15, and SPF 50 has only 1% more than SPF 30.

While giving you only 1% more of protection the concentration of chemicals in sunscreen formulation with SPF 50 is significantly higher than in SPF 30.

To give you that additional 1% of protection, cosmetic companies add more active ingredients to the sunscreen formulation. If the sunscreen that you are using contains mainly chemical sunscreens, then it means more chemicals on your skin and a higher risk of skin irritation.

Choose you SPF lotion not based on the higher SPF number but based on optimum protection. There is no need in using SPF 50 daily, SPF 15 or 30 will be a better choice because higher SPF also means the introduction of more potentially harmful chemicals to the skin.