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SPF 30 vs. 50: What SPF Should I Use?


SPF 30 vs. 50: What SPF Should I Use?

The world of sunscreens can be confusing to anyone.

Terminology such as physical versus chemical blocks, broad-spectrum, UVA and UVB, and the ever-mystifying science behind SPF 30 vs 50 can make choosing a sunscreen a frustrating process.

Keep scrolling to learn what they mean and how to get the most out of your sun protection.

What Does SPF Mean?

SPF stands for “sun protection factor.” It’s what’s used to measure your sunscreen’s effectiveness against harmful UVB rays. The SPF number tells you how long it would take for the sun’s radiation to redden your skin both with and without sunscreen.

A woman reapplies sunscreen on her shoulder while tanning on the beach

It’s important to note, though, that the number isn’t an exact number but simply an estimate. Rates at which people achieve sunburn can vary from individual to individual.

Also note that SPF doesn’t measure how well a particular sunscreen will protect you from UVA rays, the rays associated with blotchy skin and premature aging. This is why it’s crucial that when you read the label, you check not only the SPF factor but if it says “broad-spectrum” or “UVA/UVB.”

The Difference Between SPF 30 and 50

The main difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays while SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays.

When considering the protection of an SPF 30 sunscreen, think of it this way: if your skin normally burns after 10 minutes in the sun, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 allows you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 300 minutes (or a factor of 30 times longer).

With an SPF 50 sunscreen, you can stay in the sun for around 500 minutes without burning. You’ll find a few more differences between SPF 30 and 50 in the chart below:

SPF 30 SPF 50
Blocks 97% of UVB rays Blocks 98% of UVB rays
Allows 3% of UVB rays to hit your skin Allows 2% of UVB rays to hit your skin
Takes around 30x longer for the skin to burn Takes around 50x longer for the skin to burn

With what science has taught us about the damaging effects of the sun’s rays and the increased risk of skin cancer, the protection provided by SPF 15 just doesn’t cut it. It is generally recommended that most people use at least an SPF 30 sunscreen all year round.

People who use SPF 50, however, sometimes acquire a false sense of security, thinking they are invincible to the sun. Whatever SPF number you use, it’s important to remember that sunscreen is only at its most active for about two hours and needs to be reapplied often.

Does a Sunscreen’s Texture Change the Higher the SPF Level?

Changes in sunscreen texture can be attributed to the types of ingredients used. For example, sunscreens made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are usually thicker and more opaque than their chemical sunscreen counterparts.

But even though product texture can change, it’s usually not very noticeable.

Also, more medical-grade skincare lines have made significant advancements in their sun protection formulations, offering a variety of options with respect to texture, form, and tint while providing maximum sun protection.

For instance, Colourscience’s Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50 comes in a unique powder form. It’s easy to apply alone or over makeup. It is also sweat and water-resistant.

When and How to Apply Sunscreen

It’s important to read the label and follow the recommended instructions on how to apply sunscreen.

Generally, you should apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside. You must reapply it every two hours afterwards to maintain effectiveness.

If you forget to reapply, you are going to get less than half the protection stated on the label. While it can feel like a hassle, following application instructions is definitely worth it.


Expert-Recommended Skin Protection at APT Medical Aesthetics

SPF 30 vs 50: which one should you use? Whichever you pick, the most important thing to remember is to apply it as directed and use it every day for maximum protection!

To learn more about how you can protect your skin this summer, visit APT Medical Aesthetics for a free consultation. Be sure to check out the sunscreens in our online store today!


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