Do You Need A High SPF Sunscreen?

Categories: Sunscreen
Leave A Comment: Comments(23)

high spf sunscreenSince sunscreens come in so many different SPFs (ranging from around 2 to 100), is the higher number always better? Is an SPF that is too high actually bad for you, and what SPF do you really need?

Why I regularly use sunscreens that are at least SPF 30
For every day use, I always choose sunscreens that are at least SPF 30, and my favorite sunscreen happens to have an SPF 55. It takes a lot of sunscreen to actually achieve the stated level on the tube! For some reason I always thought you needed a teaspoon of sunscreen for your face, but it turns out you only need 1/4 or 1/3 of a teaspoon to adequately cover your face. A shot glass of sunscreen is what you need to cover your whole body.

As vigilant as I am about sunscreen, I find it hard to put an entire third of a teaspoon of sunscreen on my face. No matter how great the sunscreen, it starts to look thick and unnatural when you have a super thick coat of it on. It also gets expensive! My other fear is that when I put on foundation over the sunscreen, I worry that some of the sunscreen ends up back on my hands. Also, if I’m not going to be out in the sun, I don’t want to have to reapply my sunscreen every few hours, since I have on makeup. I’m sure some of the sunscreen wears off as the day goes on. If I do go to the beach or pool, I stay in the shade, and slather on the third of a teaspoon on my face, and reapply at least every two hours, and right after being in the water.

It’s estimated that people only apply about half as much sunscreen as they should. So that SPF 30 is more like an SPF 15. That SPF 15 is inadequate sun protection if you don’t use enough. Paula Begoun has a sun essentials/sunscreen FAQ that has lots of useful information.

Sunscreen does not offer 100% sun protection
Even the best sunscreen is not going to offer 100% sun protection. With the correct amount, an SPF 30 offers about 97% UVB sun protection, while an SPF 15 offers about 95% protection. Personally I want all the protection I can get because I still notice freckles appear when I’m out in the hot sun, and I sometimes get a slight tan, even when I slather on the recommended amount of sunscreen.

Is a high SPF dangerous?
An SPF higher than 30 is still only going to provide about 97% UVB protection. The higher number just means you can stay out longer in the sun without getting burned. In Paula Begoun’s book Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me, when reviewing Neutrogena Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 70, she does state that higher SPF sunscreens put more sunscreen active ingredients on your skin, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

How I choose sunscreens
Primarily I look for sunscreens with at least 10% Zinc Oxide and an SPF 30+. I have 20 more posts I’ve written about sunscreen that go into more detail about ingredients. I also personally like sunscreens that are waterproof in the summer, so that they don’t sweat off. I am not afraid of higher SPF sunscreens, but I’m also happy with sunscreens in the 30-55 range for every day use.

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23 Responses to “Do You Need A High SPF Sunscreen?”

  1. prettybeautiful Says:

    i use sunblock everyday, never leave home without it. and i am glad that so far i have no freckles on my face. :D currently, i am using clinique’s super city block spf40 and loving it :)

  2. Denice Castillo Says:

    I loved this post so much; I included it in our Fab Friday Finds on Beauty Chat Blog! Thanks for sharing, this is an important subject matter that I think too many individuals ignore. Happy Friday!

  3. Olivia Says:

    I know my question isn’t sunscreen related but I was wondering if anywhere on your site do you address nail care? I’ve had numerous issues with acrylics and now that I’ve taken them off I can’t seem to find any good products to restore and help my natural nails grow. I know you touch upon a broad range of topics but I haven’t come across any that address nails. Well thanks in advance for responding…

  4. catla Says:

    Nice blog. I used SPF 20 sunscreen daily.

  5. fabulessbeauty Says:

    I’ve also heard cases in which people break out from higher SPF?

  6. 010081 Says:

    well there is not much difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30. SPF 15 provides about 93% protection and SPF 30 provides about 96.5% .The most important is how one use ,atleast 0.5 mm layer must be applied if applied less then this SPF will decrease.

  7. DermaWorksStaff Says:

    I have to say that putting on sunblock since I was a kid is what has helped me preserve healthy skin. My mom got skin cancer as an adult so I have always made skincare and protection a top priority. I think sunblock is they key to a great complexion!

  8. NiKita W Says:

    Most people don’t apply the right amount of sunscreen so they are not getting the full SPF protection stated on the package. In addition to the SPF it’s also important to make sure that your sunscreen is broadspectrum meaning it will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays.

  9. VANYA Says:

    Oh wow, i just found this excellent blog. I personally use Shiseido sunblock SPF 55. Thanks for the great resources.

  10. Self Tanning Queen Says:

    Love this post! It really is a marketing war/race to see who can get the highest number on the bottle, isn’t it?! I think SPF 30 is good and safe – blocks 97% UV rays but not so heavy that I feel bogged down. I honestly feel that whatever number you choose – you MUST re-apply! Using a high digit number lulls one into a false sense of security. But even if the calculation of burn time x spf = 8 hours, product naturally breaks down way before that! I try to re-apply every three to four hours. – Self Tanning Queen

  11. Anti Aging Facial Products Says:

    Great information on sunscreen lotions. I use the branded products but have least knowledge about SPF and the ingredients of the lotions. I will make sure to follow your suggestions regarding them. Thanks a lot.

  12. CarrieAnn Says:

    Thanks for spreading the word and providing info about the importance of sunscreen! So important. I personally use AntiPhotoAging’s 3-in-1 Daily Defense ( It’s a daily moisturizer and antioxidant with broad spectrum UVA and UVB sun block – SPF 45. It literally erases my sun spots (of which I had many), and minimizes the fine lines and wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. Whatever you use, make sure it has a decent SPF. Most of the sun damage we see as adults began from sun exposure in our early years.

  13. kaunis Says:

    I use Neutrogena Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 70 and because I like a little color and believe it might be dangerous, I use it everyday. I think sunscreen less then 30 is pointless. Like SPF 5, what?

    P.S. Love your blog! A friend of mine suggested checking this bog out and now I can’t stop reading it! Thank you!

  14. Says:

    Some great information on the need for daily sun protection, another point to be noted is that zinc based moisturizers offer some benefits over others as zinc is a much better natural sun barrier than any of the synthetic stuff that’s used. Unlike synthetics, zinc actually “prevents” the sun’s rays from every entering deep enough into your skin to do any real damage.

  15. Mike Says:

    Totally agree, daily spf is very important, zinc based lotions work best on me as zinc is natural antiseptic and physically blocks sun’s rays from entering skin, unlike synthetic chemical based lotions.

  16. Hebah Says:

    I just love your blog! Thank you for your articles, I just bookmarked so keep ’em coming!

  17. Romy Says:

    You bring up some important points about SPF, my personal fav is La Roche Posay’s Anthelios XL Fluide Extreme SPF 50, super protection, lasts all day not greasy–keeps sun spots away. I LOVE it!

  18. amber Says:

    Nice post. Just for your information In Australia (where I am from) SPF +30 is actually the highest SPF level available. Of course the individual products may have SPF levels above 30 but according to Australia the % of UV protection barely changes – so lets not confuse our customers. I think a key point to look at is what that SPF factor actually means. An SPF factor of + 30 means that you need to expose yourself to 30 times more sunlight light than it would normally take to burn your skin. If your not spending much time in the sun, just going to and from work and work indoors an SPF of 10 is fine. Not forgetting the skin actually needs to be exposed to at least SOME UV rays for the body to produce Vit D. But if you really want to keep wrinkles away – lather up girls!

  19. Patti Says:

    It is so important to know about sunscreen as there are many misconceptions. Thank you for sharing this.

  20. SarahF Says:

    I completely agree with Nikita- people do not apply enough sunscreen for it to actually be effective. It is true though that SPF 30 is considered high enough by almost all dermatologists. I read that SPF of 30 offers protection from 96.7% of UVB rays, while sunscreen with an SPF of 50 offers protection from 98% of UVB rays. So you don’t have to spend a bunch more money on higher SPFs. But, I did recently learn that SPF only measures UVB rays blocked and not the UVA ones. UVA rays are the ones that cause premature aging and can actually increase your chances of developing skin cancer. My dermatologist recommended that I use a broad spectrum sunscreen- neutrogena makes one with helioplex in it. This website is really informative and will give you lots of ideas about how to take better care of your skin and protect it from the sun!

  21. Cassie Says:

    Michelle Phan’s skincare line IQQU has a sunscreen that’s SPF 30 to be applied even over makeup and it doesn’t smear. I’ve been interested in this but don’t have the kind of money to try something out like that, especially with my sensitive skin. I wonder if it works? Oh well. I hate sunscreen! It’s so thick and pasty. The things we need to do for beauty and no cancer. Ugh.

  22. Joey Says:

    So interesting, the tubes of chemicals we put on our skin causes the same thing we try to prevent. By reading your posts, none of you girls get it. Use a natural oil or nothing at all, or something by Burnout if you have to. How many years did our ancestors go without sunscreens??? Wake up sheeple.

  23. Nicole Says:

    My skin is very sun sensitive.When I go hiking or camping in the summer, I have to use spf 50 or higher because I still burn with anything lower than that. I like to wear it on my face every day because I read somewhere that around 90% of aging signs are form the sun.

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