VERIFY: Does a higher sunscreen SPF offer more sun protection?

When outside for long hours, especially now that summer is here - it's important to protect yourself and your loved ones from the sun's harmful rays. But, when choosing a sunscreen - Does a higher SPF actually offer more protection?

When outside for long hours, especially now that summer is here, it's important to protect yourself and loved ones from the sun's harmful rays. But, does a higher sunscreen SPF actually offer more protection?

To verify if this is true, 12 News sister station KYTX in Tyler, Texas looked at expert reports and talked to a Tyler board-certified dermatologist. 

With more time outside, comes greater exposure to the sun's harmful rays. As a mother of two, Abby Duty said sun protection is something she takes seriously.

"Oh it's very important. I send some to their school to put it on when they're going on field trips or spending a lot of time outside. I definitely am big on sunscreen anytime we're going to spend more than 30 minutes outside," Duty said.

Duty said she isn't taking any chances either, regularly choosing the higher rated sunscreen SPF as her go to sunscreen for her kids.

"I usually choose a kid's sunscreen. I think 55 to 70. That's what I've purchased, but I really don't know what is better or what I should be using."

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the difference in sun protection factor, or SPF, levels off after a certain point. 

An SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent. But, SPF 50 is only a percentage higher, blocking 98 percent.

Tyler Dermatologist Dr. Jenni Holman said to think of SPF coverage on a curved scale. 

"When you hit SPF 30, it plateaus off. So, an SPF 100 is certainly not three times better than an SPF 35. Where I run into trouble with folks is that they put on an SPF 100 and they think that they're covered all day, every day. It really doesn't matter beyond a 30," Holman said.   

So no, the higher the SPF doesn't necessarily mean you're getting better protection from the sun. 

In fact, the FDA issued guidelines in 2011 that cap recommended sunscreen SPF at 50, arguing there isn't sufficient evidence that suggests a higher level SPF is more effective. 

But, Dr. Holman said if you're already using one that's okay.

"I tell folks that the best sunscreen is the one that they'll wear everyday and so beyond an SPF 30, if it's one that fits into your lifestyle and one that you like, that's great," Holman said.

Holman also recommends re-applying regularly throughout the day. 

"No matter what your sunscreen is, you need to re-apply it about every two and a half to three hours and that's where the false sense of security in a higher number sunscreen comes into play."

But, she says that shouldn't replace other forms of sun protection like wearing a hat and sunglasses or staying out of the sun during peak hours of exposure, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

© 2017 KYTX-TV


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