SPF 30 vs SPF 50

By Marni Dixit August 30, 2013

Up until November last year, the only SPF (sun protection factor) available in Australia was SPF 30. Some might consider this odd when you think about the fact that we have some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

So with SPF 50 now available, should be reaching for the strong stuff and binning the last of our SPF 30 supplies?

When applied in the right way, SPF 30 protects skin against 96.7% of the sun's UVB rays. New factor 50 actually only boosts this to 98%, an extra 1.3% - not that much. However, the new SPF 50 was more of a labelling change than anything else, as some of the sunscreens on the shelves were protecting the skin from burning 50 times more than normal but could only be branded as SPF 30.

Some dermatologists have expressed concerns that with new, higher SPFs, people will spend more and more time in the sun, falsely thinking that the high sun protection factor is like a coat of armour.

Although the new regulations bring Australia more into line with the rest of the world, places like New Zealand have even higher than SPF 50, boasting SPF 70 and SPF 100, but again SPF 100 only blocks an extra few percent more UVB rays than SPF 50, so you don't get very much more for the higher SPFs.

There are other changes afoot for our sun protection in Australia and all sunscreens will be required to provide a higher level of UVA protection. UVA causes ageing of the skin and certain skin cancers.

With the sunny weather approaching, the best thing to do is replenish your home supply of sunscreen, remember that SPF 30 products still provide perfectly good protection against the harmful rays of the sun, perhaps invest in some SPF 50 and always apply an SPF when out and about in the sun.

Photo: Getty / Getty Images Entertainment / Ryan Pierse