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.