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SPF 30 vs 50 sunscreen: does the number make a difference?

August 15, 2019

When you’re deciding which sunscreen to buy, do you ever wonder how high the SPF (sun protection factor) should be for the best protection? The SPF label means that a product blocks and absorbs UVB rays which are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer.

Knowing that, you may be surprised to find out what a higher number means.

Baystate Health dermatopathologist Dr. Jean Henneberry explains the difference between different SPF levels, and offers advice for choosing the right sunscreen for you.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for sun protection factor.

What does a higher SPF number mean?

A higher SPF number means you will be protected in the sun for a longer amount of time.

How much sunscreen should I apply?

Most people don’t use enough sunscreen. Apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed skin.

What are other tips for staying safe in the sun?

Look for a sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage. In addition to sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat, clothing with SPF protection and sunglasses. Limit the time you spend in the sun.

Talk to your doctor if you have other questions about sun safety. Find more tips for summer health and safety.