Mega sunscreens

Is SPF 70 the new SPF 30?

Jul 06, 2009
By
Yuki Hayashi
Photography
Leda & St. Jacques
Hair be gone!

SPF 50. SPF 70. Even SPF 100! Whatever happened to good ol’ SPF 30? Clinique has new SPF 50 Face Cream. Dermaglow offers 70 SPF Cream. And Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 100 was introduced to the US market this season. What’s up with the new crop of through-the-roof-SPF sunscreens?

Is SPF creep about advanced protection… or advanced hype? More importantly, do you need to change your formula? ElleCanada.com set out to get the new scoop on today’s mega SPFs.

WHAT IS SPF?
First, let’s run through a refresher course in Sun Protection 101. SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” a measure of the extra time you can stay in the sun without getting burned when you’re wearing a sunscreen or sun block, versus not. So, if you’d typically burn after 10 minutes in bright sun, an SPF 15 product will give you 150 more minutes or about two-and-a-half hours (10 minutes multiplied by 15) of fun in the sun – minus a burn. Conventional wisdom – and the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation – suggests a minimum SPF 15 product for regular everyday use.
Learn how to get a great tan this season, minus the sun.

EXTRA PROTECTION?
So why might someone need an SPF 70 product? “People with higher sun sensitivity due to their genetic skin type, medications or due to dermatological procedures would benefit from higher SPF protection,” says Dr. Charles Lynde, a dermatologist and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Fair-skinned lasses, retinol cream or Accutane users, cosmetic surgery divas: this means you.

…OR EMPTY NUMBERS?
But naturopath Dr. Tony Kovacs, a California-based VP of Soleo Organics, a natural skincare company, calls über-high SPFs “marketing hype.”

“When SPF levels are portrayed on a graph, the graph tends to plateau around SPF 32 to 35. Any number above that is negligible with regard to protection. For example, an SPF 100 may give an extra 1% protection (at most) but the reality of being able to stay out in the sun longer is a complete hoax,” he says.

“If an SPF 30 will offer protection of up to four hours, then it stands to reason that an SPF 60 would offer eight hours and therefore SPF 100 would be 10 hours. But this is definitely not the case, as no sunscreen can offer protection for that period of time,” says Dr. Kovacs.

Are you getting a true SPF? Find out on the next page ...

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