Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunscreen SPF 30...Is it enough protection?

You've heard it for years, sunscreen protects your skin against skin cancer. Studies prove this to be true. Now companies are making sunscreen with SPF 50, SPF 85, and even SPF 100! What do all these numbers mean?

A sunscreens SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number is a measure of a sunscreens ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. For example if after 30 minutes in the sun a persons skin turns red, an SPF 30 sunscreen supposedly will protect the skin for 30 times longer. That tends to give people a false sense of security. First of all to be effective a sunscreen needs to be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Second, amounts the size of a shot glass (1-2 oz) needs to be applied to the body and a teaspoon to the face. Third, sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours. Most blocking ingredients start to deteriorate after two hours.

Getting back to those SPF skin better protected with an SPF 50 vs. SPF 30? The Skin Cancer Foundation states that an SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. A SPF 30 blocks 97%; and SPF 50 blocks 99%. The doubling of the SPF number doesn't mean a doubling of protection.

The best skin precautions are:

  • Stay out of the sun between the peak hours of 10am and 4pm.
  • Apply at least a SPF 30.
  • Wear protective clothing like sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.

Julie Berquist

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