Decoding the Most Common Question: Spf 30 vs Spf 50

a woman is wearing a cap with closed eyes and has applied sunscreen cream on her face

UVB rays are those rays that can cause you a severe sunburn when you have been too much involved in outdoor activity, without applying adequate protection.

What Does SPF Mean?

SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and it is this factor that is SPF that measures the sunscreen’s effectiveness against the harmful UVB rays. While considering the protection of sunscreen lotion of SPF 30  think of this like – suppose if your skin starts burning after 10 minutes of sun exposure, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 allows your body to stay in the sun without getting tanned or without burning for approximately 300 minutes (which is a factor of 30 times longer duration). 

It’s very important to note down here that this time duration is an estimated result and not an exact number. Rates at which people use to have sunburn can vary majorly from individual to individual. It is also important to remember here that SPF does not guarantee here that how well your sunscreen will protect you from the harmful UVA rays, the rays which are associated with your premature ageing that can cause wrinkles and irritated or loose skin. 

This is why it is very important to consider that you should not only look for the SPF factor while choosing your sunscreen but also ensure that the label of your sunscreen lotion reads “broad-spectrum” or “UVA/UVB” to protect your skin from the severe sun damage to your skin.

SPF30 vs SPF50

The SPF that is the Sun Protection Factor of your sunscreen lotion is a measure of how well it protects your skin from sunburn. SPF30 sunscreen admits approx 1/30th of the harmful UV while SPF50 admits about 1/50th and so on with other marked sunscreen. For effective shielding of your skin sunscreens need to be applied generously over your skin to achieve the mentioned SPF protection. Many studies claim that you should use any sunscreen of your choice which is labelled as broad-spectrum, water-resistant and SPF30+, SPF50+ or even above.

Let's have a look at the different sunscreen terms to make a better choice out of the large no. of available sunscreen lotion.

SPF: The SPF that is the Sun Protection Factor of a sunscreen lotion actually measures the effectiveness of your sunscreen and how well it protects your skin from sunburn. Sunscreens lotion should be applied liberally to achieve the acclaimed SPF protection on the label of your sunscreen.

Water Resistant: When you apply a water-resistant sunscreen lotion it does not come off your skin during exercise or get wet unless it is not wiped off. While sometimes a label may say that sunscreen is 'four hours water-resistant, it still needs to be applied alternatively every two hours to maintain the same level of sunscreen protection.

Broad-spectrum: Broad-spectrum sunscreen lotion actively filters both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the principal cause of your sunburn and UVA is the main cause of your wrinkled and thickened skin. Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer.

The '+' sign: The plus sign actually means 'more than. SPF50+ sunscreen must provide protection of at least SPF60 in testing. This is because the same batch of sunscreen will test differently by using different methodologies in different laboratories. By testing it at SPF60, it removes any minute margin for error.

What SPF Should I Use For My Skin?

For the low exposure to harmful rays of the sun, a sunscreen lotion with a base of SPF 15 is sufficient to shield your skin completely. However, for the other different situations, you’ll have to consider the duration of your outdoor activity to determine what kind of sunscreen suits you best and can guard your skin properly.  There are several types of sunscreen lotions available in the market you can choose according to your specific needs.

Sunscreen lotion-like

  • Water-resistant sunscreen
  • Spray sunscreen
  • Broad-spectrum
  • Low vs. high SPF
  • All-natural sunscreen

How much sunscreens Should One Need To Apply?

Apply a generous amount of your selected sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go outside and again every two hours for complete protection.

The average-sized adult needs to apply at least one teaspoon of sunscreen to each of his arms and the leg. Your face/neck and your ears and front and back of your body should also be applied with at least a teaspoon of sunscreen.

Sunscreen can easily be wiped off or lost through the process of perspiration as it is also applied unevenly throughout your body. Putting on layers of sunscreen alternately every two hours helps you protect yourself from the harmful UVB rays. 

Take Away

Many of us mistakenly believe that we only need sun protection on hot, sunny days or during the summer season only.  However, it is harmful Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, not the heat, that can cause skin sunburn damage, premature ageing, even eye damage and also skin damage that can even lead to skin cancer.

UV rays are something that can't be seen or felt by humans. Because of this property, it can prove skin-damaging without us knowing it at all. The UV index can tell us the strength of Ultraviolet radiation each day. Sun protection is highly recommended when the UV index is showing readings of three or higher than that.