What level SPF should you be wearing?
SPF or Sun protection factor measures the level of protection a sunscreen is able to provide against harmful UV radiation (such as UVB and UVA). As such, a sunscreen with required level of SPF protects your skin from issues such as tanning, premature aging, skin burns, dark spots, skin cancer, and similar other problems. Here, we will examine the ideal SPF level your sunscreen should have.
Ideal SPF Level in Sunscreens
SPF proves to be beneficial and protects our skin from harmful UV rays. But you need to select a sunscreen that has right level of SPF. SPF number dictates the amount of time UV rays would require to redden or harm the skin compared to time UV radiation would need to damage skin where sunscreen has not been applied.
For instance, if you are using a sunscreen with SPF15, then it would take UV rays 15 times longer to burn your skin, compared to a situation where you are not wearing a sunscreen.
Ideally, you should use a broad spectrum and water resistant sunscreen with SPF30 when you are planning outdoor activity for an extended period of time. The sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes before going out and reapplied every 2 hours. However, higher SPF level does not mean better protection.
Reasons Not to Use SPFs with Higher Levels
Incorrect Sense of Security: People using sunscreens with higher SPF levels usually stay outside for much longer duration and tend to skip reapplication of sunscreen. Such people also assume that it is not necessary for them to cover exposed skin with clothing, wear hat, or stay more in shade.
Due to these reasons, they actually expose themselves to greater amount of UV radiation. Thus, higher SPF level does not mean that a person will be able to spend more amount of time in the sun without applying a sunscreen.
Health Risks: If a sunscreen contains high level of SPF then it needs higher percentage of chemicals. Few of these ingredients are linked with health risks and are known to facilitate issues such as hormone disruption, allergic reactions, free radical damage risk, and tissue damage.
Marginally Better Protection: Most dermatologists suggest that people should use a sunscreen having at least SPF30, capable of blocking almost 97% of the harmful UVB rays.
On the other hand, sunscreens with higher SPF levels are only marginally more effective in blocking these rays (for instance, SPF50 is able to block 98% of UVB rays, i.e., an increase of only 1% over SPF30) while they pose greater health risks due to higher levels of chemicals present in them. It is also worth mentioning here that no sunscreen is able to block 100% of harmful UVB rays.
To summarize it can be said that sunscreen you use must have SPF to provide protection from harmful UV rays. But, it is also true that higher SPF level does not mean higher degree of protection and a sunscreen with SPF30 provides good enough protection. Moreover, at higher SPF levels, the chemical