3 Myths About High SPF Sunscreens

July 23, 2018


Problem #1: Higher SPF doesn't mean better protection

SPF is a abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor.  The term was developed in 1978 under the Food and Drug Administration in attempt to regulate sunscreens on the market. 
  • SPF 8 meant the consumer should have 8x times longer before they burned then if they didn’t use any sunscreen. So if they normally burned in 10 minutes, with an SPF 8 they would burn after 80 minutes.
  • SPF 30 meant the consumer would have 30x longer. So if they burned in 10 minutes without protection, they would have 300 minutes (or 5 hours) of protection. 
  • SPF 45+ products came to market in the early 2000’s, promising upwards of 8 hours of protection. (Read our blog about the history of sunscreens here)

Problem: Humans tend to swim, sweat, and change clothes while they are enjoying the sun. This behaviour will remove the quantity of sunscreen on the skin likely before the 5 hours of promised protection is up. 
Conclusion: High SPF gives us a false sense of security when our summer activities likely require reapplication sooner than the promised timeline of protection. It's more important to focus on reapplication or taking shade and covering up if you choose to do reapply. (Here is another article on the same subject by the Environmental Working Group)

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Problem #2: SPF is not Proportional

The term SPF is usually referring to the sun protection factor from burning (UVB radiation). You would think that from an SPF 15 to and SPF 30 the protection would double but unfortunately this is not the case...

This image from our Safe Summer Skin Guidebook show the level of SPF and the portion of UVB that they block:

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Problem #3: High SPF cannot be in an aerosol container

Sunscreen only works if you apply it properly. An aerosol sunscreen does not apply the same way a cream or lotion does. When it is sprayed, only some of the product covers the skin, and the rest is dispersed into the air. Although the label says SPF 45 it might only be providing coverage like an SPF 8. (Read more here)

Using a cream or lotion ensure you're aware of how much you're applying and allows you to properly apply and work the product into your skin. Ask for help if you can't reach your back :)

Your best bet? Choose a mineral sunblock with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide so you are protected against both UVA and UVB radiation. We recommend our Safe Summer Skin Cream 20%!
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Here's a video recap of all of this information!