The SPF Number You Should Be Using

Some changes in skin due to aging are inevitable—some are not. “Photoaging from UV radiation exposure is the primary cause of extrinsic skin aging,” says Las Vegas plastic surgeon Goesel Anson, MD. “That means that it is largely preventable. There’s plenty of evidence to show that protecting skin from UV rays will improve its health and appearance with age. The ease of sunscreen use and the effects on skin make nonuse of it a mystery.”

Because the FDA now restricts manufacturers from using the term “sunblock” (no SPF completely blocks the sun), selecting the right SPF can be confusing. So, what number should you be looking for on a bottle?

SPF 15
The Skin Cancer Foundation considers this number (or higher) acceptable protection for normal, everyday activities, as long as it provides broadspectrum protection.

SPF 30
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), as well as most dermatologists, agree that this is the number to use. Also look for one that offers broad-spectrum protection.

SPF 50+
The FDA may cap SPF at 50+ due to “insufficient data that it gives more protection,” Hollywood, FL, dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, MD, says.