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The Trouble With SPF 50 Part 2

August 19, 2011

Last week we went through some of the reasons that a move to SPF 5o plus in Australia may not be as fantastic as it sounds.  Before I elaborate on another of the reasons why it is still worth pointing out that when it comes to sun protection of course the higher the SPF the better – especially if the sunscreen is a well formulated broad-spectrum product.   SPF 50 means that your skin receives only 1/50th of the burning dose over the same period of uncovered skin. That means that if you could usually stay in the sun for  3 minutes unprotected with this sunscreen properly applied you could stay in the sun for up to 150 minutes before your MED (minimal erythema dose) had been reached.   If the sunscreen was SPF 30 your skin would get 1/30th of the MED over the same time so a 3 minute burner would buy themselves up to 90 minutes if they were relying on the sunscreen alone to protect themselves.

So as far as your level of protection goes, the higher the SPF number the better really but there is a downside that we touched upon last time but will elaborate on here.

Once an SPF 50  plus standard comes into Australia people will want it and that’s all good if you are a manufacturer and can afford and produce it and if you are a customer and you can afford it.   From the manufacturing side SPF 50 is not an easy thing to achieve, especially at the low prices to which we have become accustomed.  The $10 for 1 litre type deals that you see around Australian supermarkets in the summer are unlikely to remain as the filter technology required to get that high pushes the manufacturing price up and up and up.  I would not be surprised if prices go up by at least 50% and for a nation where the vast majority of people really do need to use sunscreen every day for at least 10 months of the year that is a big financial burden.

On top of that there will be many manufacturers who either can’t afford to re-formulate or don’t have the know-how to get to the higher limits.  Additionally organic and natural claiming sunscreens that favour Zinc Oxide only formulations will also struggle.

I do think that SPF 50 plus is a good thing for public health but like anything it will come at a cost. That cost, at least in the short-term will be less choice and higher prices for consumers. Let’s hope that those sunscreen active manufacturers reduce the prices of their newer actives so that this becomes a target that many brands can hit.

Stay safe and enjoy the sun.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2011 5:23 am


    Try taking a naturally occuring antioxidant called Astaxanthin. It functions as an internal sunscreen to enhance your tolerance of sun exposure. So, take your SPF 50 and a dose of this stuff to be really safe in the sun!

  2. George Mears permalink
    September 21, 2011 1:44 am

    The chemicals required to reach ever higher SPFs is exponential, At SPF15 92% of UV is filtered out, at SPF20 its not much more and it is impossible to achieve 100%. The levels of the chemicals to achieve SPF50 are hyge compared to SPF15. If you have sensitive skin then you must consider the reactive chemicals you are applying to your body. Stay out of the sun and cover up is the most logical approach.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      September 21, 2011 9:32 am

      Well I’m not sure that it is exponential. Better dispersion, emolliency and non-sunscreen boosters can help get SPF higher meaning that many products on the market today reach SPF 100 although not all are able to claim that as it depends on the local regs (Australia is currently SPF 30 plus limit but will rise to SPF 50 plus).

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