You may think you know everything you need to know about sunscreens, but some common myths may still be leaving you in the dark. Here, we’ve got you covered! We’re setting the record straight and shedding light on 5 of the most common myths about SPF, sunscreens and their labels. Just in time for summer, I will be posting a common myth every week for 5 weeks.
Myth 1. Higher SPF sunscreens offer more protection against the sun than lower SPF sunscreens. Not necessarily true! A SPF (Sun Protection Factor) only gauges the UVB protection regardless of the UVA rays. Think of UVB as the “burning rays,” and UVA, as the “aging” rays. So a sunscreen might have an SPF 50 but not contain any UVA filters, which guard the skin against those aging ultraviolet-A rays. You might not burn while wearing this sunscreen, but you could be setting yourself up for premature signs of aging, including wrinkles and age spots. Without adequate UVA protection, the sun is allowed to freely attack the skin’s critical DNA, which keeps the collagen and elastin young and healthy. Even worse, frequent, unprotected exposure can result in skin cancer.
Rather than look for a sunscreen with an impressively high SPF, you’d be better off sticking to a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF between 15 and 30. The “broad spectrum” is the operative word here, as, under new FDA guidelines, only sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection get to wear this badge of honor on their packaging.
To get the job done, broad-spectrum sunscreens often contain chemical UVA filters like avobenzone and oxybenzone or natural UVA/UVB filters, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Keep in mind even broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPFs of 50+ offer only the slightest incremental benefits compared to their broad-spectrum counterparts in the 15-30 SPF range, so don’t be fooled by the high numbers!