The Great Sunscreen Wars: SPF 30 vs. SPF 100 – A Battle for the Safest Skin in Wenatchee

The Wenatchee heat is slowly starting to crank up your thermometer.  I normally like to exercise when the sun is low on the horizon.

Lately, to get in my daily runs, I’ve had to head out mid to late morning - where I have to apply sunscreen.

Woman spraying sunscreen cream on skin before run. Sports and healthy concept.
Mykola Sosiukin/Getty Images

On average, we get over 200 days of sunshine in Wenatchee. So, what kind of sunscreen should you use for you and your family?

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SPF 30, 50 or SPF 100?

The MD Anderson Cancer Center says:

SPF 30 blocks 97%, 50 blocks 98%, and SPF 100 stops 99% of UVB rays from reaching your skin.

Just looking at the SPF protection scores: SPF 100 sunscreen gives you only slightly better protection than a sunscreen with SPF 50. It could give you a false sense of security and make you spend more time in the sun — upping your risk for burns and skin cancer. Why? This is a VERY IMPORTANT: A product with SPF can protect you from sunburns, but it could still leave you vulnerable to doses of UVA radiation. More on why and what UVA is, in just a moment.

verona_S/Getty Images
verona_S/Getty Images


Dermatologists suggest using a sunscreen of SPF 15 to 50, applying a liberal amount and reapply often. By often: Every two hours or after swimming and toweling off or if you’ve been sweating excessively.

And you shouldn’t just look at the SPF score on the container.

I recently learned that there are two kinds of UV radiation that hits your skin: UVA and UVB. UVB (ultraviolet B, with a shorter wavelength is the kind responsible for sunburns, while UVA (ultraviolet A, with a longer wavelength) is the kind that reaches deeper into the skin and causes skin aging. Both of them increase your risk of skin cancer. 

SPF only measures protection from UVB radiation. It has nothing to do with deep-penetrating UVA radiation. In fact, the US has no labeling system that tells consumers how much UVA protection they're getting (or not) in a sunscreen. 

pada smith/Getty Images
pada smith/Getty Images

Finally, the Skin Cancer Foundation gives us wise words to live by in the hot summer months:

To ensure you're getting equal protection from both types of radiation, check the ingredients list. The product should contain 3% avobenzone or at least 15% zinc oxide, Andrews said. Both ingredients block UVA.

INFO SOURCE: The Skin Cancer Foundation

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