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Beyond marketing - will 50+ sunscreen make a difference?

Monday 20 September, 2010

  It's creating quite a buzz all this talk of SPF 50+ sunscreen. Will 50 be the new 30? Surely the higher the number the better off you are right? Well it may be the case if we're talking about your bank account, but not necessarily when it comes to sunscreen.

So if we wade beyond the marketing what are the facts?  Interestingly, higher factor sunscreens don't offer much extra protection from sun damage than SPF 30.

How is this so?  Well sunscreen works to protect your skin from UVB rays and the SPF (sun protection factor) number is only a guide to its strength. What the lab tests show is that:

  • SPF 30 allows one in every 30 rays in, providing 96.7% protection
  • SPF 50 allows one in every 50 rays in, providing 98% protection.

So we're really looking at an extra whisker here in protection. Not quite the shield of armour some may think (or market).

One of the common myths is for people to confuse the SPF factor with the amount of time they think they can spend in the sun without getting burnt.

Another worry is people are only putting on about a third to half the amount of sunscreen that they should and often forget to reapply every two hours.  The average person should apply around a teaspoon for the face area, each limb and more for the torso.

And at the end of the day, the most important thing is that sunscreen alone, whether we're talking 30+ or 50+ is not enough to protect yourself from the sun's UV rays. 

So if the UV alert  is three or above, the sun protection combo is to slop on (regularly and liberally) broad spectrum sunscreen, slip on sun-protective clothing, slap on a hat, seek out the shade and slide on my sunnies.

To read more tips on choosing and using sunscreen visit http://www.sunsmart.com.au/sun_protection/slop/

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