We have all been there, in the drug store, milling about in front of the rack of sunscreen, deciding between the SPF 30 and SPF 3 million. The SPF 30 is one you’ve always used before, it has a nice texture….. but surely if the 30 is good, the bottle with the higher number MUST be better. Right?
No, not necessarily. As much as we would love to tell you that you should just get the bigger numbered bottle, it’s not that easy. Stick with us, and we will explain;
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.
An SPF in theory, is designed to multiply your body’s own natural sun protection by the number on the bottle. If it’s a day with a high UV index, a person can start to burn in 7 minutes (yes, that quickly). An SPF of 30 will potentially extend that to just over 3 hours (7 x 30 = 210 minutes). There are other variables to consider. Example: things like exposure to water and sweat will remove some of the SPF, reducing the length of time you are protected.
Health Canada and FDA approved sunscreens with and SPF of 30 will screen 97% of UVA and UBV rays you are exposed to for the 210 minutes we talk about above.
There were a few years there where everyone (many dermatologist included) where on the bigger is better bandwagon for sunscreens. It was an easy trap to get caught up in. But then Health Canada noticed and interesting trend: people where burning.
Why were people getting sunburned while wearing SPF 105? Many consumers know how SPF’s are designed to function, so using the same UV index as we used above, an SPF of 105 in theory should get you an additional 8 hours in the sun without needing to re-apply. The problem is here is twofold. Chemical sunscreens are not active in your skin for that many hours before they destabilize and stop working, and mineral sunblock which is not absorbed into the skin, is going to rub off, sweat off, shed off with natural skin cell turnover, etc etc. In short, they don’t last as many hours as the consumer thinks that they will.
What will an SPF 105 get you?
It will get you an additional 1%, as SPF of 50 or higher will screen 97-98% of UVA and UVB you are exposed to.
New Health Canada regulations were passed to protect consumers re SPF. Health Canada determined that ultra-high SPF numbers, were misleading to people as ALL sunscreens should be re-applied every 2-3 hours to be effective. Health Canada put forth that SPFs of higher than 50 gave a false sense of security that resulted in more dangerous sun exposure. As such you will now see that there are SPFs of 50, and 50+, but no higher. You will also see that “Waterproof” labelling has been changed to the more accurate “Water Resistant”, as well as a few other minor changes that make SPF labeling more accurate. SkinScience is quite happy with these new guidelines! It makes for safer, more protected people!
The Golden Rules of Sunscreen
- Pick a product you like! This is the absolute most important rule! If you don’t like it, you won’t wear it, SO YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT!!!! Oh, and make it at least an SPF 30.
- Re-apply, every 2-3 hours. Sunscreens need 30 minutes from when they are applied to when they start working so re-application before the first application wears off is important!
- Apply lots! At one time. You need to use enough product that you are working it in, not just skimming it across your skin. The biggest mistake made, is not applying enough.
When it comes down to it, if what you like is the highest number product, then go for it! But don’t break the bank on big numbers thinking they are better, because that is not always the case!
Want your sunscreen questions answered? Book your consultation (or follow up consultation) today and we will walk you through how it works, why it’s important and how to find the right product for you!