New Research Suggests SPF 100 Sunscreen Might Work Better Than SPF 50

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Good news all of you fair-skinned beauties, there’s new evidence to suggest that a higher SPF actually does work.

For years, science, or more accurately, the Food and Drug Administration, has been telling us that anything higher than SPF 50 was basically useless but a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology proves otherwise. While it’s true that anything over SPF 50 doesn’t make much of a difference if you’re applying sunscreen the correct way — slathering your body every two hours with the recommended dose — most people don’t follow those guidelines. For those who have trouble remembering to apply throughout the day, an SPF of 100 holds real benefits.

The study tested 199 men and women who were two sunscreen bottles labeled “left” and “right.” One bottle contained SPF 50 while the other contained SPF 100. The test subjects were then directed to apply each bottle of sunscreen to the corresponding side of their face and neck — so the “left” bottle went on the left side of the face, etc — and then to go about their normal daily routines.

The results were, well, shocking. Researchers found that sun damage on the SPF 50 side of the subjects’ faces was twice as high as the amount of sun damage on the SPF 100 side. The reason? Most of the people participating in the study failed to reapply their sunscreen throughout the day.

“In the real world, the higher SPFs are much more forgiving, and since people are under-applying sunscreen, they’re much more likely to protect,” Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a professor of dermatology at New York University and an author of the study, explains.

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It should be noted that people are still encouraged to slather on the sunscreen every two hours, whether or not you’re using a higher dose of SPF, but this is welcome news for the many sunbathers who simply forget to protect their skin while enjoying a day at the beach. Of course, just as important as the SPF level of your sunscreen is its ingredients and the type of sunscreen you’re using. Hawaii just banned sunscreen with two ingredients that have been proven to damage coral reef, a real concern for anyone looking to stay eco-friendly this summer.

And while spray-on sunscreens don’t damage your lungs like some might believe, they can hold other risks, most notably the risk that spraying on your sunscreen means you’ll almost certainly have gaps in coverage. A lotion is the recommended type of SPF for babies and young children but if you’re set on using a spray-on protectant, the best course of action is to spray the product onto your hands and rub it into your skin.