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Six Tips to Take the Confusion Out of Sky-High SPFs

You know how I feel about sunscreen. It's a daily essential. But, with the mega-wattage sunscreens available these days, like Neutrogena's new SPF 100 Sunblock and Banana Boat's UltraMist Ultra Defense SPF 85 Continuous Clear Spray ($12), are you confused by the notion that the higher the number, the better the protection? You're not alone.

Amped-up sunscreens can be misleading to customers, with many dermatologists claiming that the soaring SPF numbers are merely marketing ploys. Need some clarity? Check out the following tips on taking the befuddlement out of sunscreen when you


  • Is 30 enough? SPF 30 is practically the industry standard, but with higher SPFs, you are offered slightly better insurance against those major red burns. However, the bigger ones don't always offer the best protection against ultraviolet A — aka the aging rays.
  • For UVA protection: Look for ingredients such as avobenzone or Mexoryl SX.
  • Know your numbers: When comparing UVB (the burning rays) protection, SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and SPF 30 blocks 96.7 percent. Not too big of a difference, eh?
  • Do a shot: Not sure how much to apply all over? Aim for at least a one-ounce shot glass worth.
  • False sense of security: An SPF of 100 might sound impressive, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think you're absolutely covered for the day. Consider wearing a hat, t-shirt, or other protective items to shield your skin. Remember, no sunscreen can provide 100 percent protection, and you should reapply after sweating or swimming.
  • Don't skimp: If you're under the impression that you can actually apply less of a higher SPF, think again. "The higher the SPF, the more rapidly the protection falls off with under-application,” dermatologist Dr. Barbara A. Gilchrest told The New York Times. Half the amount of SPF 70, for instance, will not provide SPF protection of 35. It's a mere 8.4, according to Dr. Darrell S. Rigel.


Join The Conversation
ismene ismene 8 years
If you're very fair-skinned or are on a medication that makes you photosensitive, that additional 1% of UVB protection can make a big difference.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 8 years
I swear by SPF30 Invisible Zinc from the Australian cancer council. A decent lather of that and I stayed burn free all of last summer. Neutrogena SPF30 works a charm as well, and goes well under makeup!
ShelleyHFan ShelleyHFan 8 years
Note to self: come back and bookmark this or print. thanks!
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 8 years
I love sunblock, right now i use Aveeno for my face. I tend to trust companies that already work in skincare. And i look out for noncomedogenic.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
i think for people who are really fair skinned the higher spf is is good. i use the neutrogena's 70 on my 10 year old's face everyday before school and then again right after school. i also saw that there is a Neutrogena baby, so i might try that.
emalove emalove 8 years
I usually use Neutrogena SPF 55, but this year I went up to 70. We'll see if there's any difference.
wasah wasah 8 years
can you put up some recommendations for sunscreens? there are so many out there that it's hard to decide on which is the best :(
ForeverMeg ForeverMeg 8 years
Thank you for clearing that up! I always knew that a higher number didn't necessarily mean better protection but I didn't realize that there was such a small difference!
brilliance13 brilliance13 8 years
hm really good to know... I have some 50 spf and 70... still burned. must have been the application quantity!
Allytta Allytta 8 years
i went and did some researcha nd mexoryl is also called ecamsule
Allytta Allytta 8 years
i loved that you put up ingredients. can you do a post about which ones are photo stable and what it means and what ingredients are best for protection against UVB? I use Clinique 50 and City Block 40 now, but want to try La Rocey-Posey after your great reviews.
softchickenyou softchickenyou 8 years
thank you for posting this! i was shocked to see SPF 100 at the drugstore... wow...
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Thanks Bella!
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