Hattiesburg dermatologist explains truth of SPF numbers

Hattiesburg Clinic's Dermatology South

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - When you are looking for sunscreen, it's important to know your numbers. Dermatologist William Waller, of Hattiesburg Clinic's Dermatology South, explained what SPF 50 means.

"It only allows one-fiftieth of the amount of sun to get to the skin," Waller said.

Waller said there is more to SPF than you may think. He explained the truth behind the number on your sunscreen.

"The higher SPF doesn't necessarily give you as much protection as you might think," Waller said.

He added continued research finds the higher the SPF number, or Sun Protection Factor Number, doesn't mean you are getting more protection.

"SPF of 15 gives you about 93 percent protection from the sun, whereas an SPF of 30 gives you about 97 percent," Waller said.

Waller said sunscreens offering protection more than 30 is marketing more protection for a longer time to the consumer, which is not necessarily the case.

"There is some false security to that because you think, 'Oh, I'm going to put on 100, I'll be good all day,' and that's not true at all," Waller said.

Even the FDA has spoken out about companies labeling sunscreens higher than 30, according to Waller.

"When you get up to the 30, 50 and even higher than that the amount of protection that you get is very small," Waller said. "It also becomes harder to measure, which is why the FDA had recommended at one point limiting the amount, the numbers, that manufacturers are able to put on their packaging."

When it comes to protecting yourself against sun damage, Waller said remember these key factors: get broad spectrum to protect against UVB and UVA rays, and look for an SPF number of at least 30.

He said be sure to wear sunscreen everyday, even on cloudy days, and if you are outside, reapply every two hours.