Photo: Courtesy of Shiseido.
Deep down, we really, truly want to believe that all beauty products will do exactly what they promise. But, sadly, boastful brands with larger-than-life but not so true-to-life claims have turned us into skeptics. That's why super-strength sunscreens with sun protectant factors in the high double digits strike us as too good to be true. Could they really be protecting us that much more than our good old SPF 30?
To get the scoop, we turned to Dr. Steven Wang, director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at Basking Ridge, New Jersey, who spoke with us on behalf of The Skin Cancer Foundation. His take? Superpowered SPFs truly are more than just marketing mumbo jumbo.
As Dr. Wang explains it, while SPF 60 doesn't have twice the efficacy of SPF 30, it does block a higher margin of radiation. For example, SPF 15 blocks out 93% of harmful rays, while SPF 50 protects against roughly 98%. It's a small but mighty difference, says Dr. Wang, who counts sunscreen as "the best product out there for anti-aging purposes.”
But, before you say goodbye to your lesser-strength SPF in pursuit of those extra percentiles of protection, consider this: according to Dr. Wang, SPF 30 is totally suitable for daily use, especially in the winter months. However, he recommends increasing sun protection (think 50+) during the summer, especially if you're exposing yourself to the elements for long periods of time.
Dr. Wang is also quick to note that no matter the intensity of SPF infused in your product of choice, "the issue is that when it's used by the public, the degree of protection diminishes." Why? Improper usage. "We know people don’t use SPF appropriately," he laments. The average consumer, he says, doesn't apply their sun protectant thoroughly or repeatedly, and in turn, fails to fully benefit from the protection of even the most potent products.
The final verdict? SPF 30 is your go-to for regular sun exposure, but if you plan on being in the sun for a prolonged period of time, you'll want to grab a SPF 50 or higher. And, above all else, make sure you are applying the recommended amount and reapplying like clockwork.
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