Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Questions about SPF numbers and sun protection

Over the years (and still—as recently as yesterday with one of my clients) I have had many people ask me many questions about the validity of SPFs, exemplifying the confusion that continues to surround the numbering system. Below are a few Q&As that will hopefully help to clear up any confusion you may have.

As I have said time and time again, sunscreen is meant to keep your skin from burning. You will still receive UV rays from this powerful star that heats our planet day in day out no matter the number on a bottle of sunscreen. Use it—absolutely, but don't feel falsely armed against all sun damage.

If my moisturizer has SPF 8 and I put my foundation on that has SPF 8, does that mean I am protected like an SPF 16 product?

I love this question—and the answer is no! The highest SPF of whatever you are wearing is the sun protection number you are getting. In other words, if your moisturizer has an SPF of 15 and your foundation has an SPF 8, then you are getting SPF 15, not 23.

I’ve read some articles saying that if you use this layering technique it somehow lowers the SPF value to the mean average of the two products. For instance, SPF 15 + SPF 8 = an SPF value of 11 or 12. To me this sounds ridiculous, but perhaps it’s true. Wearing whatever SPF products whenever you can is always the best course to take. And no matter the SPF values, you need to wear a lot more product than you think you do and you have to reapply frequently to continue to get protection.

I read in one of your books that you don’t think it is necessary to wear a sunscreen higher than SPF 15. Are you saying that SPF 30 isn’t worth wearing?

No! What I explained in Timeless Skin was that many times people feel falsely protected when wearing high SPFs. This is precisely why the regulations for sunscreens have been modified, and SPFs higher than 50 are not allowed by the FDA. Absolutely, wear as high an SPF as you want to, but know that with the higher numbers, you also get more sunscreen chemicals, and some skin may be sensitive to these. Regardless of the SPF, UV rays will penetrate into your skin, there just isn’t any way around that except inside a building with no windows.

I am in no way advocating wearing lower SPF sunscreens, but I am cautioning you to be aware that no sunscreen, no matter its SPF, is capable of protecting you completely for an extended period of time. You must reapply sun protective creams as well as wear covering over your body such as hats and protective clothing. If you have a cream that you like and it is an SPF 30, great! But know that if you will be in the sun for extended periods of time, you must reapply in order to continue the SPF benefits.

Adopt the American Cancer Society’s slogan, Slip, Slop and Slap. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat. Only by wearing sunscreen and covering your skin with clothing and hats are you truly protecting your skin in the sun.

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