Debunking SPF: Study Shows Most Don’t Understand Sun Protection

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For years now, when it comes to sunscreen, we have been told to choose one that has the best SPF for us – the higher the number, the better the protection.

But a new study finds many people are still confused by the information on sunscreen labels.

SPF: it’s on the label of every bottle of sunscreen. It stands for “sun protection factor.”

You probably know that and you’re supposed to pick a sunscreen with an SPF that will best protect you from getting a sunburn.

But a recent study at Northwestern University found most people don’t understand what SPF really means and other important information on sunscreen labels.

Researchers asked people what sunscreen labels said about sunburns, aging and skin cancer.

They found the majority of people didn’t know that SPF indicates only how well the sunscreen protects against sunburns, not aging or cancer.

Of the 114 people surveyed, fewer than half were able to identify if a particular sunscreen protected against skin cancer. Twenty-six were able to point out the information about sunburn protection.

And only eight were able to figure out on the label if the sunscreen protected against skin aging.

While most people said they understood that the higher the SPF number, the better the protection. Most said they did not realize that SPF only protects against the sun’s UVB rays, not UVA, which is what is associated with skin aging.

In 2011, the FDA started requiring sunscreen makers to clarify information on labels to more clearly emphasize if products offered “broad spectrum protection,” meaning protection from the widest range of UV rays.

But as this study found, there’s still a lot more confusion to be cleared up and some suggest that might start with a better rating system for both UVA and UVB rays.

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