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An SPF rating is a measure of the time it would take you to sunburn if you were not wearing sunscreen as opposed to the time it would take with sunscreen on. An SPF 30, for example, is not a specific unit of time. It is a multiplier applied to an individual’s propensity to burn.
To figure out how long you can stay in the sun with a given SPF (under controlled conditions), use this equation: Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number = maximum safe sun exposure time. For example, an SPF of 15 would allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could without protection, so if your skin starts to turn red after 20 minutes without sunscreen, a SPF 15 sunscreen would increase that time by a factor of 15, meaning you could stay in the sun for 300 minutes (20 minutes X 15 = 300 minutes).
Before you do your calculations and set your timers, it is important to recognize that most people use less than half the amount of sunscreen used in testing, which will result in unwanted burns and long term sun damage. Read on to find out other ways that consumers are misled about SPF.
SPF and UV absorption
To simplify, higher SPF number equals more sun exposure time. It also indicates the level of UVB absorption that is occurring, but that number doesn’t increase exponentially, which can be confusing for consumers. For example, an SPF 15 blocks 93.3% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 blocks 96.7% of UVB rays. When the SPF number doubled, the absorption rate increased by only 3.4%.
Chemicals and Higher SPFs
In order to boost a sunscreen from SPF 15 to SPF 50, higher concentrations of active ingredients are required. This either means more chemicals or more minerals. With more chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate, your body will have increased exposure to chemicals that may pose health risks, allergic reactions and hormone disruption. If you choose to go with the safe mineral-only option, some SPF 50s can be whitening or thick. Luckily, we’ve created an all-mineral SPF 50 that goes on easily and is sheer for those wanting extra coverage!
Regardless of SPF, the FDA recommends that sunscreen be reapplied at least every two hours. That goes the same for BOTH an SPF 30 and an SPF 50 sunscreen. Since the benefits to a higher SPF are negligible, we formulate most of our sunscreens to be SPF 30. It goes on easily, rubs on sheer and offers great protection.
A False Sense of Security
SPF is not a consumer-friendly number, and is often used as more of a marketing tool by sunscreen companies to make consumers believe that their sunscreen will protect better than one with a slightly lower SPF. It’s logical for someone to believe that a bottle with SPF 60 is twice as good as one with SPF 30, but that assumption is wrong.
People who use high SPFs have been shown to feel like they can stay in the sun for much longer than those using lower SPFs, and as a result they may be exposing themselves to more harmful UV rays and increased risk of sunburn than their lower-SPF counterparts.
An SPF 15 product blocks around 94% of UVB rays, an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays, and an SPF 45 product blocks 98% of rays. As you can see, once you start getting into bigger SPF numbers, the amount of protection doesn’t increase by as much as you would think!
Reapplication is key no matter the SPF. Even with an SPF 300, you would need to reapply after a few hours or else you will get burned.
The FDA has long contended that SPFs higher than 50 are inherently misleading. Australian regulations don’t even allow SPF values beyond 30. European and Japanese regulations cap it at SPF 50, and Canada allows a maximum of “SPF 50+.” It isn’t unreasonable to expect FDA regulated restrictions in the near future.
So Why Aren't All Goddess Garden Sunscreens SPF 50?
While we do offer SPF 50, we believe SPF 30 also offers a great combination of protection and an ideal user experience for a physical sunscreen. In line with FDA recommendations, we encourage our sunscreen to be reapplied every two hours, no matter what SPF value they have! Read more about the science of sun exposure here.
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