We all know UV rays are the ultimate skincare enemy, causing everything from premature ageing and sun spots to skin cancer, and recent research suggests the SPF you’re using may not cut it. While previous studies found little difference between an SPF25 and an SPF50, the latest wave of intel suggests super-high SPFs – that’s 100+ – can pay off big time compared to their lesser counterparts…
Firstly – do you really have to wear an SPF every day?
In a word, yes. As Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams explains, “As much as 90% of skin ageing is caused by UV exposure, and penetrating UVA rays are present all-year round. Remember that UVA, the ‘ageing’ part of sunlight, doesn’t fluctuate as much throughout the seasons as the ‘burning’ UVB does, so although you may not see the warning signs of burned skin, you could still be experiencing damage".
Dermatologists agree you should be wearing a minimum SPF30 on a daily basis, summer or winter.
So what’s the latest?
Until this point many experts have considered SPF50 the gold standard of sun protection, but new research has disputed all that. The study in question, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, saw participants cover half of their skin with SPF100, and the other half with SPF50. After several hours of sun exposure, the areas of skin treated with SPF100+ were much less sunburnt than the areas treated with SPF50.
Does a higher SPF offer 100% protection?
Not necessarily. While the study has caused a wave of interest in the world of dermatology, there’s more to an SPF than just a number. The effectiveness of your SPF, no matter how high, depends on how well you apply it. As US-based skin expert Darrell Rigel explains, “People typically apply only 25 to 50% of the rated amount. So if you’re using SPF30, you might only be getting SPF7 in reality. On top of that, you should be reapplying every two hours, even in the winter.”
In theory, when applied correctly, an SPF 100 will protect against 99% of damaging rays – in comparison, an SPF15 blocks 94% of rays.
What should you look for when buying an SPF?
It goes without saying the higher the better, but also be sure to look for a broad-spectrum variety to guarantee protection against UVA and UVB rays as well as blue light from devices. In the UK, it’s currently illegal to label an SPF higher than 50 as it’s believed beyond SPF30, there’s little jump in protection. However, if recent studies are anything to go by, the tide could be about to turn.
Want in? SPF100 formulas aren’t easy to come by on Britain’s beauty shelves but can be found on the likes of Amazon and other specialist skincare websites. If you’re not convinced by three-figure SPFs, at the very least use a good-quality SPF50 – tried and tested brands rated by dermatologists include La Roche Posay, Dermaceutic and Ultrasun.