Higher SPF Sunscreens: Do You Really Need It?

Video Transcript:

Here’s another daily tip from your friendly local dermatologist.

Okay, so a lot of times people come in and tell me, “Doc, I’m using the SPF 100 or 110 or 500!” I don’t even know how high they go, and they say, “I hate the formulation! It’s so sticky people can see that I have sunscreen on. Do I really need an SPF of a hundred?”

And the answer is not really. Now if you’re gonna be out all day long in the sun, absolutely I would bump that number up to a hundred, and reapply every two hours, because studies have shown that it does give a little bit better protection than the SPF of 30, and they do last a little bit longer than the SPF of 30. So if you’re going to be getting an enormous amount of sun, please put it on, please use it, please use some protective clothing like hats and shirts and all those sorts of things, and please make sure you reapply every two hours.

But for normal, every day wear, you know, for half an hour an hour a day of sun, I would recommend a SPF of 30. Because there’s some really nice formulations out there of SPF 30. And once you put them on after about a minute or two, you can’t really tell that anything is on your skin, so it’s not awkward.

Now the difference in protection between SPF of 30 and 100 is less than 2% difference. So you’re getting about one and a half, somewhere around that percent increased protection from the sun between SPF 30 and a 100. But these formulations, oftentimes they’re just not pleasant. So please, find something that you will use. It makes no sense to buy an SPF of 10,000 that you never use, okay? Please get something that you’re comfortable with, that you like, that you use, and then please use it. And for the SPF 30s, if you’re going to be out in the sun, you have to reapply those every two hours, too. You have to wear the sun protective hats and clothing, and you have to be smart about how much sun you’re getting.

Now my favorite ingredients by far are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They’re the ones that physically reflect the sun. The other ones, the chemically based sunscreen, they’re still good, but what they do is they change the energy of the sun as they hit your skin. And I’d much rather have something bounce off than just the energy change. But again, if you have a chemical based sunscreen that you love, and you’ll use it, by all means, it’s absolutely way better than nothing at all.

Dr. Reagan Anderson is a local dermatologist from Colorado Springs.