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Why High SPF Is Bullshit *NSFW
BY Reef Repair | September 2, 2018
Science

High SPF Ratings Are The Second Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world that he didn't exist.
The 1st greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.

There is a big sunscreen secret that sunscreen manufacturers will lobby to protect and certainly do not want becoming public knowledge. That is where Reef Repair comes in, helping to expose the dirty secrets behind chemical sun care and make the real science behind safe sun care public knowledge. Also because pots full of deceit and secrets should be vigorously stirred from time to time.

Anything above SPF 50 is sheer marketing bullshit and you are being royally scammed as a consumer.

There, we said it…

High SPF ratings are bullsh!t

High SPF ratings are a scam and you the consumer are the one getting ripped off and being downright lied to, whilst also potentially endangering your health and safety. Understanding SPF ratings is one of the most important parts of choosing a safe and effective sun care product for you and your family.

What Does SPF Mean Anyway?

Let’s do a brief recap of what SPF is and means for sunscreen. If you’d like a much more detailed explanation of SPF, check out our article which focuses exclusively on explaining SPF ratings.

SPF, stands for Sun Protection Factor, a measure of how much longer you can be exposed to UVB radiation before skin damage or burning occurs. Reef Repair

So SPF ratings are a scientifically proven, fail safe method of determining the amount of protection you get from the sun, which for sure means a higher SPF rating is better, right?

Wrong. To understand why, here is a quick and simple lesson on how SPF ratings actually work.

How Does The SPF Rating Actually Work?

We want to be brief here also, but make no mistake, this is how SPF ratings are meant to work and how we extrapolate the percentage of sun protection you actually get from SPF rated sun care products.

Example: SPF 5 blocks 80% of UVB hitting your skin, allowing you to be exposed to UVB radiation for 5 times longer. A Sun Protection Factor of 5, if you would have burned naturally in say 10 minutes, becomes (5 x 10), (spf x minutes) or 50 minutes of protection.

The SPF percentage is calculated like this. SPF 5, means 1/5 UVB rays hit your skin, meaning 4/5 are blocked, that translates to SPF 5 blocking 80% of UVB rays. To get that percentage, it is just 4/5 expressed as a percentage, or 80%, still with me?

  • SPF 30 lets 1/30 UVB rays hit your skin, meaning 29/30 are blocked. That calculates to SPF 30 blocking 97% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 50 lets 1/50 UVB rays hit your skin, meaning 49/50 are blocked, that calculates to SPF 50 blocking 98% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 100 lets 1/100 UVB rays hit your skin, meaning 99/100 are blocked, that calculates to SPF 100 blocking 99% of UVB rays.
Recommended SPF 30
SPF 30 is recommended by most dermatologists.

So there you have it, SPF 100 is a whole whooping 2% better than SPF 30, and 1% better than SPF 50. Statistically, it’s an almost insignificant improvement.

But it is worth asking, is the 1% extra protection not still better to have and does the high SPF number still mean something for consumers?

Here is where the high SPF rating bullshit really begins.

SPF Ratings Only Measure UVB Protection

We harp on about UVB vs UVA protection quite often, here is why in a badly drawn, but quite powerful graphic.

Notice how UVA rays penetrate deeper, that means they break way more Sh*t on the way.
Notice how UVA rays penetrate deeper, that means they break way more sh*t on the way. [11]

Sunscreen SPF ratings do not measure protection against UVA rays. The SPF rating is only an indication of your improved protection against UVB rays. [1]

UVB vs UVA the effects of too much sun exposure from normal UV radiation
UVB vs UVA the effects of too much sun exposure from normal UV radiation

That means everything in the UVA column above, you are likely not protected against when basing your sunscreen purchasing decision solely off of the SPF rating. If you are not sure why “Malignant Melanoma” is in red, that is because those are the Melanoma’s that spread cancer cells to other parts of your body and result in your death. [12]

It has been highlighted recently that in many US sunscreens that the higher the SPF rating, the lower the effective protection against UVA becomes. Meaning that many high SPF products lack strong UVA protection [2][3], because.

1: To gain a higher SPF (UVB blocking) rating, more UVB blocking ingredients must be present in the sunscreen.

To maintain a super high SPF rating, a sunscreen will have to add much more of the active ingredients that protect against UVB, while likely lowering the number of active ingredients that offer UVA protection.

Active sunscreen ingredients UVA, UVA II & UVB Protection Graph
Active sunscreen ingredients UVA, UVA II & UVB Protection Graph

This simply comes down to a chemical sunscreen wanting to do one thing really really well at the expense of another. Some active chemical ingredients in sunscreen are really good at blocking UVB, some are good at blocking UVA and some can do a bit of both, none are as effective as Zinc Oxide though.

A high SPF sunscreen will focus attention and ingredients on the highest UVB blocking potential active ingredients to gain the highest SPF rating.Reef Repair

More chemical based UVB ingredients can generally mean less UVA protective ingredients and therefore less UVA protection as a result. [3]

Leaving you to be exposed to UVA rays, which is bullshit!
2: Many Chemical Active Ingredients That Block UVB decrease UVA Protection In Weird Ways

Sunscreen’s that have super high SPF ratings cause other problems in the actual sun cream mix that can stop UVA blocking ingredients from working effectively.

Chemical active ingredients in sunscreen do not combine to form an uber ingredient that blocks all UV radiation. Rather they are usually found to clump together, forming protective barriers in only specific spots when applied.Reef Repair

That means UVA blocking active ingredients can be unevenly spread on your skin due to the increased amounts of UVB ingredients all fighting for space in the cream. This creates pathways through the sunscreen for UVA rays to penetrate and damage your skin, due in part to the excess amount of UVB blocking agents.

Now if you believe preventing cancer is more important than just preventing sunburn, than that high SPF rating has just led you to purchase a less useful sunblock than you intended.

Leaving you again exposed to UVA rays, which is bullshit!

Is 1% Extra Protection Still Better Though?

Again not really, 1% extra means nothing in the realm of an SPF rating because you need to remember that SPF is only a measure of UVB and sun burn protection!

SPF 100 gives 1% better protection against UVB radiation only, compared to an SPF 50.Reef Repair

You get 1% better UVB protection with SPF 100 compared with an SPF 50. Not to mention, that is only if you apply your sunscreen correctly, evenly, re-apply every two hours, do not go swimming, do not engage in any activity that causes you to perspire, sweat or accidentally rub the sunscreen off with towel or clothing.

So in other words, with an SPF 100 product you are getting 2% extra protection from sun burn than you would an equivalent and quality SPF 30 product.

Just 1% or 2 % extra protection against sunburn, that is bullshit!

You Are Paying More For Higher SPF Ratings

It’s no secret that clever marketing has played a huge role in the BS surrounding SPF ratings. One reason higher than SPF 30 ratings appeared and stuck around was that it is easy to charge a consumer more for a product they think is better, higher numbers, better product. [4]

If like most people you simply believed that an SPF rating was linear, you’d be forgiven for thinking SPF 100 was nearly two times more effective than an SPF 50. Pretty simple math right, 50 + 50 = 100, so an SPF 100, must be twice as good, and you convince yourself it’s ok to pay more for that extra protection.

Consumers are paying more for high SPF products for no reason
Consumers are paying more for high SPF products for no reason

Higher SPF ratings translate to higher prices on sunscreens and not much else. You don’t find SPF 30 or 50 products selling for more than the SPF 100 from the same brand. The higher the SPF rating, the higher the price of the product, simply because we all have a habit of believing higher numbers are better representations of the effectiveness of a product. [4]

If you have been paying attention you should remember that SPF ratings are not a linear scale. The higher ratings offer only marginally better protection [2] and are not an effective measure against the more harmful UVA radiation at all.

Higher SPF ratings simply mean you end up paying more for something that is not significantly different or better than an SPF 50 product.

Paying more money for the same level of sun protection, that is bullshit!

Thicker, Ickier and Stickier

If you have gone from using an SPF 30 product to an SPF 50 or 100 sunscreen, you may have noticed something interesting? The thickness and consistency of your sunblock is a lot greater. In reality to gain that super high SPF rating, more active chemical ingredients are needed and in larger quantities, this will create thick and very difficult to apply sunscreen formulations.

Reef Repair differentiates from most natural and chemical sunscreen because we spent a very long time developing a sunscreen that applies easily to your skin without a ghostly whitening effect or thick oily covering. Reef Repair sunscreen is made to feel like you are not wearing anything at all.

Naked Reef Safe Sun Cream Sunscreen SPF 30+ Reef Repair 50ml
Naked Reef Safe Sun Cream Sunscreen SPF 30+

High SPF chemical sunscreens and many natural sun creams are by nature, thick and sticky, severely whitening, oily and usually feel pretty nasty on your skin. More than likely you’ll then only use that sunscreen when you really must because you want to avoid the negative aspects of applying it.

Thick whitening and oily sunscreen on my skin, that is bullshit!

A False Sense Of Security

Another problem with high SPF ratings on sunscreen is that many consumers falsely believe that the higher the number, the longer one can stay in the sun without the need to re-apply, because re-applying is slightly annoying.

This is also fundamentally incorrect. Although SPF ratings use time as a measure of the extra protection it offers you, which we explained earlier in the article. SPF is essentially (SPF x Minutes), so SPF 100 if your time to burn is 5 minutes, technically, gives you (100 x 5) = 500 minutes. So SPF 100 gives over eight hours of protection with no need to re-apply, right?

Wrong, sun cream, sunscreen, sun block, whatever term you want to call it, must be re-applied on average around every 2 hours for the most effective sun protection. [5] Sunscreen washes off, you sweat it off, you move it off with clothing or activity and worst of all your body can absorb many of the active ingredients that block UV radiation. That is especially true when using chemical sunscreen. [6]

Sunscreen simply loses its effectiveness over a period of time on your skin, and that applies to everyone. After two hours of swimming, protection from SPF 50 sunscreen is now very minimal, probably almost nothing and you will be easily burned. This would be the same with SPF 30, SPF 100 or SPF 10,000 sunscreen.

You actually need to re-apply after 40 or 80 minutes if you have entered the water. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation on your sunscreen bottle!

Higher SPF ratings do not translate to longer times between re-application of your sunscreen.Reef Repair

Nearly every sunscreen in existence, regardless of the SPF rating recommends that you re-apply every two hours. That could also have something to do with the USFDA regulations requiring sunscreen labeling include that warning on every product. [7]

I still have to re-apply every two hours? This is bullshit!

SPF Rating In Summary

Are you ready to do a quick recap on high SPF ratings, no exams we promise, just answers and a gold star at the end?

High SPF Ratings DO NOT

  • Give me any more statistically significant protection than SPF 50 products
  • Allow me to spend greater lengths of time in the sun without re-application
  • Provide an effective means of gauging protecting from ultra harmful UVA radiation

High SPF Ratings DO

  • Force me to pay more for a similar level of protection and product
  • Give me a false sense of security in the sun
  • Go on like paint and make my skin feel sticky
  • Potentially allow me to choose a less UVA effective sunscreen

So over the course of this article, we have called bullshit on high SPF ratings 7 times. If you disagree with any of our calls on high SPF ratings we have one final, unbeatable argument to the BS of high SPF ratings. That argument is that the USFDA kinda agrees with us, high SPF ratings are complete bullshit, oops 8 times.

No product will be allowed to claim higher than an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 50. Those sunscreens you see with SPF 55, 80, 100, etc. will be gone, unless manufacturers can provide evidence that they offer superior protection. Currently, the FDA has no evidence that products with an SPF over 50 provide any additional protection. Sunsafe

You can find out more about the SPF labeling limits here on the U.S FDA website. [9]

Are You About To Try And Sell Me Something?

Really by this point, we shouldn’t have to try. Take your chemical sunscreens, take your overly inflated SPF rated sunscreens and throw them in the bin.

Non nano Zinc Oxide based all natural sunscreen protects you from both UVA & UVB radiation far more effectively than any single active chemical ingredient found in normal sun creams. Plus natural sun cream does not kill coral reef and is generally safer for you as a human being. [10]

Reef Safe Sunscreen, 120ml, SPF 30+
  • Type: Sunscreen
  • SPF: 30+
  • Water Resistant: 80 Min
  • UVA:
  • UVA II:
  • UVB:
  • Reef Safe:
  • Moisturising:
  • Recyclable:
  • Baby Safe:
  • Kid Safe:
  • Non Oily:
  • Natural: 100%

Join the Reef Repair sun care revolution today, for healthier skin and healthy coral reefs 😉


Posted in Science on .



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