Most often consumers who choose sunscreen products based on its sun protection index or SPF should be inclined to choose products with high SPF value, given that they provide the best protection for the skin from ultraviolet or harmful UV rays of the sun. However, that is often far from the truth. Although sunscreens with a high SPF of SPF 50+ will give a slightly better protection than sunscreens with lower SPF, they give a false sense of security, causing users to spend more time in the sun, increasing the risk of burns and skin cancer.
1. What do the terms on sunscreen mean?
SPF: The sunscreen SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of how protective the skin is from sunburn.
Water resistance: The ability not to peel off the skin when swimming or exercising, as long as the sunscreen is not wiped away. Although sunscreen can be labeled as “4-hour waterproof”, users still need to apply sunscreen every two hours to maintain the same level of protection.
Broad spectrum: Wide spectrum sunscreen filters both UVA and UVB rays. Although UVB is the main cause of sunburn, both UVA and UVB contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer.
‘+’: The plus sign means “more”. For example, SPF50+ sunscreen must provide at least SPF60 in testing before production.
2. What is the difference between SPF 50+ sunscreen and those below 50?
With the thought that the SPF is proportional to sun protection, many people will be surprised to learn that SPF 50+ sunscreen only provides slightly better protection than SPF 30 sunscreens. Specifically, SPF50+ filters out 98% of UVB radiation, while SPF30 has prevented up to 96.7% UVB.
In fact, the SPF value is an unreliable measure of the effectiveness of sunscreens. A good sunscreen will provide equal broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. However, the SPF value only reflects the level of protection of the product from UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn and non-melanoma skin cancer, such as scab cell carotoma. SPF values do not reflect the product’s ability to protect from other harmful UV rays, such as UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin and are associated with skin aging and cancer.
Besides, the SPF value is also not reliable because the testing method that companies are required to use to determine the SPF value of the product is incorrect. The experimental methods required someone to determine the redness of the skin color of a small number of participants exposed to UV rays in the laboratory. These results may vary based on the participant’s reviewer, testing device, or skin type. And SPF testing conditions are used for labeling that significantly over-appreciates the protection provided when used practically outdoors.
On the other hand, products with an SPF value greater than 50+ also tend to give users a false sense of security. Because using sunscreen with high SPF not only protects the skin excessively, but can also cause consumers to accidentally over-exposed to UVA rays and increase the risk of cancer. Numerous studies have found that many people are more likely to have used products with high SPF improperly and therefore a higher risk of exposure to ULTRAVIOLET radiation than cream users with lower SPF values.
At the same time, sunscreens with high SPF can pose more health risks due to requiring higher concentrations of sun filter chemicals than products with low SPF. Some of these ingredients can be dangerous to health when they enter the skin and are associated with tissue damage and underlying hormones. Some can cause allergic reactions on the skin. If studies show that products with high SPF help reduce skin damage and a better risk of skin cancer, further exposure to chemicals may be justitic but it is not.
However, SPF50+ sunscreen can still be used as with any other sunscreen. However, users need to follow the recommendations to achieve the optimal skin protection effect. When used properly, sunscreens with an SPF value of 30 to 50 should be selected, which helps to provide adequate sun protection, even for those with the most sensitive skin in the sun.
3. How to use sunscreen properly?
Dermatologists or Skin Cancer recommend using sunscreen every day on days when the UV index is forecast to be 3 or higher. At this time, sunscreen should be part of the daily morning routine before going outdoors these days. The choice of using any sunscreen labeled broad spectrum, waterproof and SPF 30 or higher is recommended, instead of SPF 50+ sunscreen alone. At the same time, it should be remembered to also check the shelf life, since products that are overdue will not have the appropriate protective effect.
Besides, users should apply sunscreen before going outdoors for 20 minutes. For adults, the recommended amount of sunscreen application is 5mL (about one teaspoon) per arm, leg, front torso, back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35mL (about seven teaspoons) for a full-body cream application. It is necessary to reapply at least every two hours, regardless of the waterproofness of the sunscreen and should be reapplied after swimming, playing sports, sweating a lot and needing to dry people with towels.
Finally, keep in mind that sunscreen should always be used in combination with other sun protections, including wearing a sun hat, protective clothing, sunglasses and looking for shade.
In summary, SPF only measures protection from UVB radiation that has nothing to do with deep-piercing UVA radiation. This is a big drawback of SPF 50+ or higher sunscreen products. Accordingly, even if you have used SPF 50+ sunscreen,the skin can still be damaged by the dose of UVA radiation. Therefore, to ensure the skin is equally protected from both types of radiation, besides using sunscreen,hats, sunglasses and sunshade clothing must also be part of the ways to protect from the sun that deserves attention.
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Source: ewg.org, businessinsider.com