A new sunscreen “factor” doesn’t mean we can relax the slip, slop, slap. Dr Kerryn Greive PhD, Head of Research and Development at SunSense manufactuer, Ego Pharmaceuticals, sheds some light on the SPF 50+ standard on sunscreen.

What is SPF?

“The SPF [sun protection factor] of a sunscreen is derived by taking the time it takes you to burn with a sunscreen and dividing it by the time taken for you to burn without a sunscreen. For example if you burn in 300 minutes with a sunscreen and 10 minutes without a sunscreen, this is 300/10 = 30. So the sunscreen will have an SPF of 30.”

Can you tell us a bit about the labelling changes for sunscreen in Australia?

“At the moment, legislative changes are underway that will allow manufactures to label their sunscreens up to SPF 50+. We expect that the new labelling will appear in the market late 2012 or early 2013. SPF 50+ sunscreens will deliver more protection to the consumer from both UVA and UVB radiation. Both UVA and UVB cause skin cancer and premature skin ageing, so the better protection we can wear everyday, the better our lifelong skin health and appearance will be.”

What does the launch of SPF 50+ mean for consumers?

“Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world with two in three of us getting skin cancer before we turn 70. The better the sun protection we can wear each and every day, the better our lifetime protection will be. Moving to SPF 50+ is a great step forward for Australia as it means we will have access to the best possible sun protection. [But remember] no matter what the SPF is [30+ or 50+], consumers should reapply it every two hours if they are in the sun all day, i.e. at the beach. This is because sweating, rubbing of clothes and touching our skin will remove the sunscreen. If we don’t reapply we can end up with unprotected areas, and get burnt.”

While the change to the regulations are great. What does this change really mean?

An SPF 30 allows 3.33% of the UV light that causes sunburn to get through the sunscreen film, whereas an SPF 50+ only allows 1.67% to get through, if used correctly. This reduction from 3.33% to 1.67% is approximately 50%.

*SPF 50+ is defined as SPF 60 as per AS/NZS 2604:2012