Don’t Be Fooled by the SPF Number in Sunscreens!

It’s hard to avoid noticing the SPF number in over-the-counter sunscreens. Almost every brand prominently places the number on the front of the product and hike the price as the SPF increases. This is all in an effort to make consumers presume that a higher SPF equals more and better protection. We assume that SPF means more protection, but that’s simply not the case. SPF is a measure of UVB only and not the harmful UVA rays from the sun. When protecting yourself from the sun, you must protect yourself from both UVA and UVB rays. Protecting from only one is as good as not protecting the skin at all! It’s as if two people are squirting you with a water hose. If only one person stops squirting you, you’ll still get wet! There is no correlation between the amount of sun protection and the SPF number on sunscreens.


The only thing that will block the entire UVA spectrum is zinc. Without it, you’re not being protected. It’s important for our patients to remember that not all sunscreens provide complete protection against the sun. Instead of solely focusing on the SPF number on the label, Dr. Shire encourages patients to look at the level of zinc oxide in products and to select a product with 8% or higher. Significant strides have been made to make zinc oxide sunscreens transparent, noncomedogenic, and free of skin and fragrance sensitivities. Dr. Shire is happy to provide recommendations for the right skin protectant for your skin type. Investing in protecting your skin now will make a significant difference in your life as you age!