There's a sparking debate on the difference between SPF 30 and 50. Do they offer the same protection from UVA and UVB rays? We're here to clear all the confusion and debunk some sunscreen myths in the process.
Not all sunscreens are the same, here's why...
The sun's harmful ultraviolet rays can be divided into three different types; UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA makes up 95% of the sun radiation we get, as our oxygen and ozone layers eat up the rest (UVC rays can barely reach us - thanks Earth!). However, the amount of leftover UVB radiation is enough to produce sunburn and even skin cancer! That's why we should be very protective of our skin. It's also worth noting that while UVB rays do surface damage, UVA can penetrate deeper beneath your skin, leading to premature aging. A neat trick to remember these is their initials: UVA for Aging, UVB for Burning.
Secondly, you need to know that sunscreen ingredients vary greatly from one brand to another. Some of them use zinc oxide, while others rely on titanium dioxide. The difference? While zinc oxide is a much better protector, it's also more expensive. Both of these active ingredients are efficient against UVB rays, but titanium dioxide is less effective at warding off long UVA rays – this is why you will find sunscreens that mix ZO and TD, for as much protection as possible.
Now that you've got the basics down, let's set some misconceptions straight.
1. "You can't sunburn if you have a tan." - FALSE
Tanned skin is sun damaged skin. If your skin is naturally lighter than right now, then the darkened aspect of your skin has occurred because your cells produced more melanin as a result of sitting in the sun. There is no evidence that proves you can avoid sunburns if you have a base tan, and your skin will age prematurely because of the UVA radiation.
Similarly, people with naturally dark skin can still get sun damage! The 'protection' your dark skin might offer you from sunburning is virtually insignificant, so we really advise you to use SPF.
2. "SPF 30 is as good as SPF 50." - FALSE
Many sources cite SPF 50 as only protecting 1-2% more against UV rays than its 30 counterpart. The truth is, no sunscreen will ever give you 100% protection against ultraviolets even in the short run, and sometimes using an SPF 50 cream will give you a false sense of security: while you're better protected, you cannot stay out longer without reapplying.
Regardless of the small difference in SPF percentage, an SPF of 50 is still the best choice as long as you follow the product’s instructions and reapply. In the words of an expert from the Skin Cancer Foundation , the 1-2% difference between SPF 30 and 50 “may seem like a small difference until you realize that the SPF 30 is allowing 50 percent more UV radiation onto your skin”. Surprising, right?
3. "Lotions are better than sprays." - FALSE
There is no difference between sunscreens when it comes to the application method, or the general feeling of a sunscreen. You should instead focus on finding differences between active ingredients, and on checking whether your sunscreen also protects you from UVA rays.
4. "I'm protected for the day, I applied sunscreen once." - FALSE
Regardless of your sun protection factor, any sunscreen will only last temporarily. After several hours you will need to apply a new layer. Your sweat, among other external factors, will prompt the formula to break down in time, rendering the active ingredients pretty much useless after a while. This is especially true if you’re going for a swim as well.
Did you know any of these truths? Are you going to change your application methods the next time you leave your house? Let us know over on our Instagram!
If you're looking for a way to repair your skin from sun damage, check out our Superior Complexion Antioxidant Serum - it protects you against free-radical damage, and its organic ingredients work towards replenishing your skin barrier. It contains ingredients like pomegranate seed oil, which naturally absorbs UV rays.