How much SPF do you REALLY need? Answer may surprise you

What you really need to know about sunscreen

There are many misconceptions when it comes to sunscreen.

When shopping for sun creams, sprays, and lotions, many think the higher the sun protection factor (SPF) the better. However, studies have shown that when it comes to sun protection, we have to look beyond the number.

“When you are wearing SPF 30, you are blocking out 97% of sun rays," ” says Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist Victor Wong. "Increasing to 50 SPF only blocks out 1% more, giving you 98% protection."

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If there is only a 1% increase in protection from 30 to 50 SPF, how much better can 100 be?

“There is not that big of a difference,” says Wong. "And many [including the Food and Drug Administration] agree that buying sun creams with 30 to 50 SPF is all you need." also agrees with this.

Other experts in the dermatology field have even called SPF 100 a “gimmick”.

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“The SPF number is a reference of the products ability to block UVB rays," says Dr. Julia Carroll of the Melanoma Network of Canada. "The very high SPF numbers come from the fact that they have excellent UVA coverage which happens to also increase the SPF number. So, those sunscreens are providing more protection which is important for people who have a history of skin cancer or are at higher risk of developing skin cancer.”

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Can too much SPF be harmful?

This myth still circles around. Some think that overdoing it on SPF can have negative effects on health.

“This is not true. All studies have shown that it is completely non-toxic. This is not something people should worry about. There is way more harm in not wearing sunscreen and getting a burn,” explains Wong.

Is expensive sunscreen better?

Not necessarily. Buying a broad spectrum can be found at any budget and that is one of the most important elements to buying good sunscreen. This will ensure you are protected from UVA and UVB rays.

If your skin is sensitive mineral sunscreen could be a better option and some are listed in a slightly higher price range.

However, the higher price tag does not equal better coverage. Remember, you are responsible for proper application and re-application.

For more information on sun protection and sunscreens, visit