In recent years, the importance of protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays has become increasingly evident. Sunscreen, with its sun protection factor (SPF) rating, has become an essential component of our skincare routine. However, with an array of SPF options available, a common question arises: Is a higher SPF really better for sun protection? Let’s explore the science behind SPF, its efficacy, whether opting for a higher SPF is the most effective approach to safeguarding our skin and how to choose sunscreen SPF.
Understanding Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
Let’s start by understanding what does SPF mean? SPF is a numerical rating system that indicates the level of protection a sunscreen offers against the sun's UVB rays, which are primarily responsible for causing sunburn. The SPF number is calculated based on the time it takes for skin to burn when exposed to UVB rays with sunscreen compared to without it. For instance, an SPF 30 implies that it would take 30 times longer for skin to redden or burn with sunscreen compared to no protection.
SPF and Sunburn Protection
While it is clear that sunscreen with the highest SPF offers more protection against sunburn, the difference becomes less significant as the SPF number increases. For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen filters out about 97% of UVB rays, while an SPF 50 filters out roughly 98%. The discrepancy between these two levels of protection is minimal, making it important to question the need for ultra-high SPF ratings.
The Myth of Total Sun Protection
One common misconception is that higher SPF values provide total sun protection. In reality, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays. An SPF 100 may seem like a foolproof choice, but it only provides a marginally higher level of protection than an SPF 50. Relying solely on SPF to shield our skin from the sun can lead to a false sense of security, potentially resulting in overexposure to harmful rays.
While SPF predominantly measures UVB protection, it does not offer insight into a sunscreen's effectiveness against UVA rays. UVA rays are equally harmful and are linked to premature ageing, skin sagging, and the development of skin cancer. Some sunscreens now include a "broad-spectrum" label, indicating protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It is crucial to choose sunscreens that offer balanced protection against all types of UV radiation.
Application and Reapplication
Regardless of the SPF value, proper application and reapplication are vital for effective sun protection. Many people apply sunscreen inadequately, resulting in lower-than-advertised protection. It is crucial to understand how much SPF is good for the face, neck and parts of the body experiencing most sun exposure. Sunscreens should be applied generously and evenly to all exposed skin, at least 15 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplied every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
SPF and Skin Types
Another factor to consider is individual skin type. People with lighter skin tones, who burn easily, might benefit from higher SPF protection, as their skin is more susceptible to sun damage. On the other hand, those with darker skin may require a lower SPF, but this does not exempt them from using sunscreen altogether.
Apart from potential minimal differences in protection, higher SPF sunscreens often come with trade-offs. They tend to be thicker, greasier, and more likely to cause skin irritation, leading some individuals to use them less effectively. Consequently, a lower SPF sunscreen that is comfortable to wear and consistently applied may offer better protection overall.
While we prioritise protecting our skin, we should also consider the environmental impact of sunscreen usage. Some chemical sunscreen ingredients, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been found to harm coral reefs and aquatic ecosystems. Opting for mineral sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be more eco-friendly without compromising sun protection.
Use SkinQ’s Sun Protect Ultra Light Non-Sticky Sunscreen Gel, this non-sticky broad spectrum sunscreen gel is packed with the goodness of SPF 40 sun protection and Vitamin C! The Vitamin C helps brighten your skin as the SPF prevents UV damage making it the best sunscreen for your face and a great addition to your daily skincare routine. It’s an ultra-light formula perfect for daily use and suited for all age groups, the sunscreen tested safe for application on babies above 6 months and kids as well.
The effectiveness of sun protection is not solely determined by a higher SPF. While higher SPF values do offer incremental benefits, they are not a guarantee of complete sun protection. A balanced approach, including proper application, broad-spectrum protection, and consideration of individual skin type, is essential. Instead of obsessing over the SPF number, we should focus on using sunscreen consistently, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and wearing protective clothing to safeguard our skin from the damaging effects of the sun.