As we know, SPF gives you a relative scale of protection for how long you can stay out in the sun without becoming sunburned versus the time it would take you to burn without using sunscreen. Sunscreens are graded from SPF 2 to SPF 70. The question is when is it necessary to use a higher numbered blocker versus a lower numbered blocker and are higher numbered blockers actually that more efficacious to justify the higher cost?
For example, if it takes you three minutes to burn and you use an SPF 15, it would take you 45 minutes to develop a burn. SPF 15 gives you 15 times the sun protection. It is generally recommended that most individuals will benefit from using a sunscreen in 30-to-45 range. The minimal sun protection factor that is recommended would be SPF 15. However, for those individuals who are very fair-skinned, for example of Irish-American descent or those that have a history of skin cancer - then higher numbered sun protection factors such as 45 to 70 would be indicated in those individuals.
It is felt from scientific studies that higher SPFs do give you better sun protection; however, how much more protection they give you is still a controversial point. The general consensus is that if you are fair-skinned or if you have a history of skin cancer then higher SPFs are indicated.
It is very important to use a sunscreen that has both UVB shortwave and UVA longwave coverage. The SPF only measures the UVB coverage. There is a new grading system that has been passed by the FDA which will grade UVA coverage from one to four stars based on its capability to protect against longwave UVA irradiation and that should be released in the next few years. In terms of skin care products, many cosmeceuticals state they have sun protection factors or SPFs in them. However, in my opinion, usually by themselves they are not sufficient enough to protect your skin from harmful irradiation because of their dilution with other ingredients.
Remember when you swim or sweat any sunscreen will be removed from the skin so it is necessary on very hot days or when you swim or have excessive sweating to reapply suncsreen every two to three hours to be sure you have adequate protection. Sunscreens keep your skin healthy and protect against the risk of skin cancer and photoaging. Always wear a sunscreenof SPF 15 or higher - even under clothes - for optimal protection.
Dr. Neil Sadick is one of the most renowned dermatologists and researchers whose multiple discoveries have strongly influenced and transformed the future of dermatology. He is a Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and President of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation. Dr. Sadick is author, or co-author, of more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has contributed more than 75 chapters of medical books. Read more at www.sadickdermatology.com