Sunscreen can help protect you from sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer, so you should slather yourself in the highest SPF sunscreen you can find, right?
Not necessarily, says Dr. James Turek, a primary care physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Garden City.
“To an extent, higher is better, but after that, you don’t get that much more protection,” he says.
For example, SPF 15 sunscreen will block about 93 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, whereas SPF 30 blocks up to 97 percent. From there, the rise is minimal, with SPF 50 only providing 1 percent more protection than SPF 30.
“A high SPF number can create a false sense of security and encourage people to stay out in the sun longer,” Dr. Turek says. “In reality, anything above SPF 50 only offers marginally more protection.”
In addition, SPF numbers only measure protection from UVB radiation. UVB is certainly important, said Dr. Turek, because UVB rays are significant contributors to skin cancer and are also the primary culprits behind sunburns.
However, ultraviolet A (UVA) rays can damage the skin, too, leading to premature aging and an increased risk for skin cancer, even if UVA rays don’t cause your skin to visually redden.