Overexposure to the sun has been linked to everything from premature aging to skin cancer. Therefore, medical experts have long advised us to use sunscreen whenever we go outdoors for any extended period of time. But what kind of sunscreen is the best to use?
Sun Protection Factor
The most basic and important determinate of what constitutes an effective sunscreen is what is known as the “sun protection factor” or, as it is usually called, the SPF rating. The higher the SPF rating, the greater the protection. However, there is some debate about how much of a difference in protection the SPF makes past a certain point. Some have argued that the difference between the highest SPF ratings and the lowest SPF ratings are simply not that significant.
Degrees of Protection
The SPF rating reflects the extent to which the sunscreen can block ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn. It has less effect on other forms of ultraviolet rays that cause deeper, long-term damage. For that reason, even when wearing sunscreen you need to be cautious about how much sun exposure you are getting. Also, the protection from ultraviolet rays is not dramatically different based on the SPF rating, with an SPF-15 product blocking 94% of the ultraviolet rays and a SPF-45 product blocking 98%. So the difference in protection is not enormous between the lowest and highest SPF rated products.
Unfortunately, no sunscreen gives you 100% protection. The good news is that almost any sunscreen, even those with the lowest SPF ratings, provide over 90% protection. The real key to being safe in the sun is to keep applying sunscreen throughout the time you are outdoors. If you are going swimming, be sure to reapply sunscreen every time you come out of the water. If you are not swimming, then you should apply new sunscreen at least every two hours. It is the frequency with which you apply sunscreen, more than the SPF rating, that makes the real difference in how effective your sunscreen is.
Some health experts insist that high SPF rated products are still worth buying because the small increase in protection they supply does make a cumulative difference over time. But whatever sunscreen you choose, just be certain to apply it often enough to make sure you stay safe. Use commonsense whenever you’re out in the sun and you should be fine.