Monday’s medical myth: SPF50+ sunscreen almost doubles the protection of SPF30+

SPF50+ only increases protection by 1.3%. Flickr/the half blood prince

It’s likely Australia’s sunscreen regulations will change this summer, enabling manufacturers to label their products as SPF50+.

The sunscreen industry has championed the proposed change, led by Standards Australia, because the SPF50+ label will prompt many Australians to buy new product, thinking they’re getting significantly higher protection from the sun.

But what does SPF50+ actually mean? And will it provide better protection?

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates the amount of UVB radiation that can reach the skin (and cause sunburn) with sunscreen, compared with no sunscreen.

In other words, SPF ratings indicate the multiples of time you could spend unprotected in the sun without burning, assuming the UV rating was constant.

But no sunscreen offers full protection from the sun. And the increment in UVB filtering between SPF30+ and SPF50+ is small, increasing protection from 96.7% to 98%. That’s a 1.3% increase, not almost double, as many people may think when making a purchasing decision.

Whether it’s SPF30+ or 50+, sunscreen alone isn’t enough to protect you against skin cancer. Flickr/Liberalthug