SPF is Not Enough Protection … get it in your heads! Ingredients matter – learn if your brand leaves you overexposed to damaging UVA rays, if it breaks down in the sun, or if it contains potential hormone-disrupting compounds … in the meantime, here are 5 very important things you need to know about sunscreen and SPF ratings:
SPF Protects you ONLY from UVB rays!
What?! Yes, Sun Protection Factor ONLY measures the amount of protection from UVB rays – a time standard measure of how long you are protected from burning. The SPF rating is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin. A higher SPF does not translate to better protection. In reality, scientific studies have proven that SPF30 protection level is all you need!
UVA rays are not measured with the SPF rating.
You need to know that SPF rating does not take into account the damaging effects of UVA which are the ones responsible for aging. Inferior sunscreens with poor UVA protection that have dominated the market for 30 years may have led to the surprising outcome that sunscreen users stay out in the sun longer and absorb more radiation overall.
For your sake, ALWAYS read the ingredients!!!
Many products carry confusing claims or contain ingredients that could pose health risks. Many people fail to cover up in the mistaken belief that sunscreen alone will protect them from skin cancer risks. There’s a questionable “seal of approval” program. Last but not least, a major federal agency has failed for 32 years to finish the job of issuing enforceable standards to protect consumers. Avoid products labeled with anything higher than “SPF 50+” and reapply sunscreen often, regardless of SPF.
Learn to Rely on the PPD method of measuring UVA protection.
The sunscreen standards for UVA protection are very confusing. Each country seems to have its own sunscreen standard for UVA protection, and it is very difficult to understand what each sunscreen standard means. A sunscreen label might claim to have UVA protection, but because of lax or meaningless regulations, the sunscreen may provide very little UVA protection. The lax or meaningless UVA standards hurt both the people who need good UVA protection, and they hurt the sunscreen manufacturer who does make an excellent UVA protection product. For this reason, the Persistent Pigment Darkening Method (PPD) method for measuring UVA protection as the gold standard by which all the other UVA standards are measured.
Sunscreen has Dangerous Byproducts!
Both UV radiation and many common sunscreen ingredients generate free radicals that damage DNA and skin cells, accelerate skin aging and cause skin cancer. An effective sunscreen prevents more damage than it causes, but sunscreens are far better at preventing sunburn than at limiting free radical damage. While typical SPF ratings for sunburn protection range from 15 to 50, equivalent “free radical protection factors” fall at only about 2. When consumers apply too little sunscreen or reapply it infrequently, behaviors that are more common than not, sunscreens can cause more free radical damage than UV rays on bare skin.
In the United States, consumer protection has stalled because of the FDA’s 32-year effort to set enforceable guidelines for consumer protection. There is a number of serious problems with existing products, including overstated claims about their perfomance and inadequate UVA protection, so ensure your own safety and do your homework!