Does sunscreen SPF over 50 matter?
California, Jan 21:It’s important for everyone to spend some time in the sun. Our bodies need enough vitamin D to help produce calcium for healthy bones.
However, regular or excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays in the sun will accelerate the ageing process. It also increases the chances of developing sun spots, moles and even skin cancer. So it is important to wear sunscreen with a high SPF to shield your skin from harmful UV rays, protect against sunburn and avoid accelerating the ageing process.
Sunscreen math is confusing (even to people with pHDs, dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur reassured me). First thing’s first: What does SPF stand for? SPF stands for sun protection factor (mind blown, btw). According to Dr. Marmur, the number on the label tells you how many times longer you can be in UVB light before you’ll start to burn. So, for example, SPF 15 means that you can be in the sun 15 times longer with sunscreen on than you could be without it before getting a sunburn.
So do high SPF numbers really matter? “It is unlikely that SPF 100 is better than SPF 50,” says Dr. Marmur, which makes sense considering it’s fairly unlikely that the sunscreen will last long enough on your skin to offer “50 Times” the protection the way the SPF number implies. “SPF 30 to 50 is the sweet spot for sunscreens in any setting. This provides you with good coverage to prevent sunburns. Look for labels that say UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection because this means you are covered for the tanning ray damage from UVA plus the burning damage from UVB. Both UVA and UVB cause DNA mutations and can lead to skin cancers.”
And when it comes to sunscreen, the most important thing isn’t actually the most important factor in protecting your skin — it’s your own diligence. “We forget to reapply every one to two hours. We don’t apply enough sunscreen. We forget to protect our backs or shoulders or legs or feet,” says Dr. Marmur. “My advice? Be generous with yourself with sunscreen. Buy extra, use more, apply often.”
With that in mind, here are three sunscreens in that SPF 30 to 50 sweet spot to lather your skin with all year long.