GROSS: Would you use a higher SPF? Do you think it matters?
Dr. RIGEL: Well, I personally do. I actually use either the 70 or the 85, and I'll give you my reasons why. When sunscreen is tested, it's tested in a way that's really not used in the real world, and it goes back to the 1970s, when sunscreens first began to be tested, where they used two milligrams per square centimeter of body surface.
That doesn't sound like a lot, but if - no matter what you look like, if you were to put that on, everybody would look like Casper the Friendly Ghost or the Michelin Man or something. You'd be white as a sheet. So realistically, nobody uses sunscreen the way it's rated, and that's actually unfortunate. The FDA is looking at different ways to re-label sunscreen. One of the things they should look at is how they measure SPFs.
But all that aside, if you under-apply sunscreen, and most studies show that people only apply about 20 to 50 percent of the rated amount, you're getting a lot less coverage, a lot less protection, rather, than you would see with the actual SPF on the label. So the higher SPFs are much more forgiving, and that's really the argument for them.
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