SPF 100+ sunscreen more protective against sunburn than SPF 50+

January 2, 2018


The value of additional photoprotection provided by use of high SPF sunscreens is controversial and limited clinical evidence exists.

To compare the sunburn protection provided by SPF100+ and SPF50+ sunscreen in conditions of actual use.

199 healthy men and women (≥18 years) participated in a natural sunlight, single exposure, split face, randomized, double blind study in Vail, Colorado. Each participant wore both sunscreens simultaneously during activities with no usage restrictions other than treatment area designation. Erythema was clinically assessed the day following exposure. Comparative efficacy was evaluated through bilateral comparison of sunburn between treatment areas and erythema score as evaluated separately for each treatment area.

Following an average 6.1 ± 1.3 hours of sun exposure, investigator blinded evaluation identified 55.3% (110/199) of the participants as more sunburned on the SPF50+ and 5% (10/199) on the SPF100+ protected side. Post exposure, 40.7% (81/199) of the participants exhibited increased erythema scores ≥ 1 on the SPF50+ protected side as compared to 13.6% (27/199) on the SPF100+.

Single day exposure may not extrapolate to benefits of longer-term protection.

SPF100+ sunscreen was significantly more effective in protecting against sunburn than SPF50+ sunscreen in actual-use conditions.

Previous Presentation: The data were presented in part at the American Academy of Dermatology 2017 Annual Meeting. This article has not been published and is not under review by any other journal or publication.


Rigel, DS, et al. SPF 100+ sunscreen is more protective against sunburn than SPF 50+ in actual-use: Results of a randomized, double-blind, split-face, natural sunlight exposure, clinical trial.  JAAD article in press.

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