spf ratings for sunscreen

A Guide to SPF Sunscreen Ratings

Sun protection has had a huge push in the media over the last few years emphasising how crucial it is to slip, slop and slap. Sunscreen is a product that has been an essential in Australian homes for decades, but not everyone knows how much they should apply, how often, or what the SPF rating is. Canstar Blue has put together a simple guide to help you stay sun safe by outlining what you should be considering before you step out into the sun. 

What does SPF stand for?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which measures the amount of protection sunscreen provides from the two types of UV rays – UVA and UVB. The latter are the ultra-violet rays which contribute to sunburn, and in the long term, skin-cancer. The SPF rating system was developed in 1962 by Franz Greiter, who wanted to measure the capacity of sunscreen required to block UV radiation.

What are the SPF sunscreen ratings?

In Australia, the lowest form of SPF you’ll find in sunscreen is SPF 15, and you really shouldn’t be using anything with less than this. SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of the UV rays that try to hit your skin, so even using a ‘weaker’ sunscreen that’s SPF 15 can make a big difference.

The next level up is SPF 30, which blocks 97% of UV rays. While this doesn’t seem like much of a difference compared to the half-strength SPF 15, it actually is. With SPF 30 sunscreens, you’re blocking half of the radiation that a sunscreen with SPF 15 would have let through to the skin.

The next highest level is the highest amount that is legal in Australia, but not worldwide – SPF 50. SPF 50 provides an extra 1% of protection compared to SPF 30, giving it 98% coverage in total.

The highest you can get is SPF 100, which blocks 99% of all UV rays from getting to your skin, but these aren’t legally sold in Australia.


SPF Guide

Source: Banana Boat

Popular sunscreen brands

There are plenty of sunscreen brands on the market with different SPF ratings, so you’ll never be short on choice. Some of the most popular brands include Banana Boat, Cancer Council and Hawaiian Tropic, which won Canstar Blue’s Most Satisfied Customers award for 2022

Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen

hawaiian tropic sunscreen

Hawaiian Tropic is a popular brand of sunscreen best known for its 12-hour skin moisturisation and non-greasy, silky skin feel. Retailing between $17 and $22 you can find spray on, sport and face specific sunscreen all with SPF 50+ ratings to protect against UVA and UVB rays. The Hawaiian Tropic brand is also known for its coconut aroma that doesn’t leave that chemically sunscreen smell after application. 

Cancer Council sunscreen

cancer council sunscreen

The Cancer Council has a broad range of sunscreen products to suit the lifestyle of any busy family or individual. It offers sport specific sunscreen, kids’ sunscreen, moisturising sunscreen and tinted sunscreen. Its products all sit at SPF 50+ and above and retail from $10 to $30 so there’s a sunscreen type for anyone at any price. The Cancer Council also offers other sun protection products like hats and sunglasses so you can have full spectrum protection from the sun. 

Banana Boat sunscreen

banana boat sport sunscreen

Banana Boat was well known for its comical ads many years ago and its sunscreen products remain just as popular. Its sunscreen products cover sport, sensitive skin, kids, baby and ‘after sun’, giving you plenty to choose from. All its products are rated at SPF 50+ and retail between $10 and $30 with varying sizes of product for bigger families, individuals or groups.    

How much sunscreen should I use?

How much sunscreen you use when out and about will depend on a number of factors. If you’re sitting in the shade or completely undercover it is still useful to wear sunscreen, and if you’re completely out in the sun you should be re-applying every hour or so to make sure you keep the protection up. Applying sunscreen can feel like a tedious task when you just want to jump in for a swim or head outside, but it can be a lifesaving choice. It’s best to look for SPF 15 or above and keep up good sun safety habits like seeking shade, wearing a hat and staying hydrated. And if you’re not sure, check with trusted sources such Cancer Council and SunSmart

Why is sunscreen important?

The Australian lifestyle centres around a lot of outdoor activities, so protection from the sun should be at the front of most people’s minds. According to the Skin & Cancer Foundation, ultra-violet rays from the sun are a leading cause of cancer in humans. UVR produces DNA damage that leads to mutations in genes, which causes the development of skin cancer.

Sunscreen creates a barrier between the skin and the sun protecting you from burning, and if used correctly and consistently long term, it could help prevent the potential growth of skin cancers. As always, it’s best to talk to a health professional, including your GP or a skin clinic if you’re worried about your skin or potential sun damage. 

Compare Sunscreen Brands

Original Author: William Jolly

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