SPF 100 Sunscreens are worthless gimmicks

We are living in an age where we are becoming increasingly mindful of what we put on our skin. As such, you may have noticed a wave of super-high SPF sunscreens hitting the shelves over the last couple of years. These premium sunscreens promise every feature you’ll find on most labels: it’s oil-free, water-resistant, covers a broad spectrum, and free from dangerous ingredients. But the standout spec is that it offers an SPF rating of 100 and more. These sunscreens typically cost more, and because price equals quality, it’s logical for consumers to assume that an SPF 100 is twice as effective as an SPF 50.

However, experts have long since busted this myth: not only is the labelling misleading, but the product itself is unnecessary and not worth its price. Dermatologists agree users can get sufficient protection from a broad range sunscreen with an SPF 30 or 50 if they use the recommended measurement.

This means that if your skin would normally burn after 30 minutes of sun exposure, an SPF 30 sunscreen would allow you to enjoy the sunny outdoors without turning red for approximately 300 minutes (30 times longer). Aside from the time factor, SPF also represents the degree of protection from the amount of UVB exposure. Thus, SPF 30 filters out 97% of UVB, SPF 50 filters out 98%, and SPF 100 filters out 99%.

The danger with SPF 100 sunscreens, experts warn, is that they may lure consumers into a false sense of security that leaves them vulnerable to UV damage. They slap some on and feel confident enough to soak up the ultralight beams for as many hours as possible, without feeling the need to reapply. And they may think they don't need to seek shade or cover their skin with clothing and a hat.

Additionally, sunscreens with higher values are often loaded with chemicals that can cause allergic reactions or damage the skin. They may also include SPF boosters that don’t always block UV radiation.

So, what’s the bottom line?

There’s not much of a difference in the level of protection that a SPF 100 and SPF 50+ provide. In fact, the US FDA in 2011 called for legislation that would ban products marketing itself as SPF 50+ because of lack of evidence showing SPF values higher than 50 provide superior protection than products with SPF values of 50.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone put on a sunscreen with an SPF 30 every day, and an SPF50 before participating in outdoor activities. A fresh coating needs to be applied every two hours or after swimming or sweating, using the recommended amount (to fully cover your body, you’d need about a shot glass' worth of sunscreen).