Theoretically, an SPF of 50 should give people 50 times longer protection than without it before causing the skin to burn. The problem is that theory and reality are entirely different.

As sales for higher SPF products rise, sunscreen manufacturers are formulating higher and higher SPF products. In 2010, one in every six products that list an SPF reading is listed higher than an SPF 50. Last year, it was only one in every eight products.

Studies have shown that higher SPF users have equal if not higher exposure to UV rays than those who use lower-SPF products. Oftentimes, people fail to reapply products with a higher SPF rating putting too much faith in the product.

How much sunscreen do you apply?

In order to get higher SPF product on the market, companies need to show data to prove their products are effective. If you look at the studies, the people testing the products apply up to five times more product than the average person in order to substantiate the claim.

One application a day will not get you through the day

The longer you are out in the elements, the more the chemicals in sunscreens break down. As well, products can easily be washed off with water and sweat or be rubbed off by clothes and towels. A 2009 study in Europe showed that sunbathers who used a higher SPF only got on average 19-25% longer sun exposure before burning.

Most people are unaware that the higher rating does not necessarily offer you more protection against harmful UVA rays.

At the end of the day, it’s still better to avoid direct sun exposure mid-day when the UV rays are at their peak. Clothing like a hat and shirt really do offer the safest form of sun protection by cutting the risk of melanoma by 52%.

Stay safe in the sun! For more information on skin health, please contact our Oakville clinic to book an appointment with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.