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The Truth Behind the SPF Myth

the truth behind the SPF myth

Many of you have heard the scientific mumbo-jumbo that's been circulating about how this "SPF" stuff helps protect you from the sun's harmful rays. In case you haven't heard, SPF (Sunburn Paranoia Factor) is a numerical system by which you rate how important your skin is to you. It's said to be more effective the higher the number is, per the chart below, according to me, on NickMom.

But here's what the scientists don't want you to know: SPF is a myth!

Now, don't go all crazy and call your Congressman - sunscreen does work, just not in the way we've been led to believe. Today's sophisticated consumers feel better if products are either fortified with something, are New and Improved, or have been recommended by 4 out of 5 dentists. They want their skincare products to be studied at the Mayo Clinic and approved by the FDA, which is why scientists created the myth that we all know as SPF - if people realized how simple sunscreen really is, they wouldn't buy it!

But if there's no such thing as SPF, how does sunscreen work? Surprisingly, each type has a different method:

Suntan Oil: attracts every grain of sand within a 3-mile radius until it coats the entire body, completely preventing sun exposure

Suntan Lotion: takes so long to apply, by the time you're ready to go outside the sun has gone down

Sunscreen Stick: promotes a false sense of sunscreen application confidence, encouraging you to attempt to protect your child's entire face, including eyelids - they immediately rub their eyes, then cry until you've lost the will to enjoy the outdoors

Tinted Sunscreen: turns your skin pumpkin orange, requiring you to wear long sleeves and pants everywhere you go

Waterproof Sunscreen: actually contains no sunscreen at all - it's a mixture of Vaseline Intensive Care lotion, cream cheese, and a small amount of White-Out that can never be fully rubbed in or absorbed, leaving a thick residue that neither the sun nor soap can penetrate

Sunscreen Wipes: so expensive, you can no longer afford to go to the pool or beach

Sunscreen Spray: creates a fog of noxious fumes that lead to the hallucination that you've spent time outdoors, when in fact you've been unconscious for several hours

So now you know! Remember, wearing proper protection from the sun is important year-round, no matter which method you choose - I just hope this has been a lesson that you shouldn't believe everything scientists tell you. Or everything bloggers tell you, for that matter.

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  1. I am really super duper picky about my sunscreen as it is. It must be a certain consistency, smell, temperature, volume... and then I just need to remember to put it on. Thank you for clearing up all the confusion. Now I need to go cause a nuclear winter and then be unconscious for hours.

  2. This post is hilarious! I'm considered by some, a bad parent, I don't use sunscreen very much, I prefer the cover up after a little sun exposure than slathering my children with cancer chemicals, yes I know people will hunt me down and kill me but we need sun, it's healthy and the best source of vitamin D.

  3. At my ripe old age, I *finally* figured out the temperature thing - I accidentally left the kids' sunscreen outside, and the next day it was all warm. Reduced sunscreen application whining by 30%!

  4. I go about halfway - I'm meticulous about the first application, sort of try to make sure they wait 15 minutes before sun exposure, and then never remember to reapply.

  5. Hilarious...love it & so true!

  6. I'm with you Molley! I prefer to use full coverage suits, shade and watching how long and what time they are out on the sun. More effective at preventing sun burn and their skin still gets a little of what they need :)

  7. What is the SPF of a burkah?

  8. This is hilarious, Baby!

    I cannot address some of my observations here, for reasons that shall remain somewhat mysterious.

    Here's a related anecdote: Back in the day I would take my sons to the beach nearly every other weekend, and due to diligent sunscreen application they were never burnt. Then, what seemed like at least once a summer, I would come to get them from their mom's and they would emerge from the house looking like freshly cooked lobsters. Thanks, other parent, for negating all my instruction and effort with one well-timed display of irresponsibility and neglect.

    That is all, for now.

  9. My kids are paper white but are managing to look tan this year because they are covered in dirt from playing outside. It's a good look.

  10. SocialButterflyMomJuly 19, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Which season is more annoying when you have to get a kid out the door? Winter with coats, hats, gloves, or summer, when you try to apply lotion to a moving, whining target?

  11. haha...all true.

    I prefer the ones with actual zinc oxide in them to the ones loaded with so much chemicals I fear that toxic soup more than the suns' rays. but have you ever tried to spread THAT stuff over an entire wiggling child's body? we pretty much just hve them stand in the kitchen and lather them up will distracting with Fruit Loops.

  12. Close to a million, but unfortunately it also has an insulating R-value even higher.

  13. And the dirt protects them from the sun - the best of all possible worlds!

  14. Ugh, that's a tough call. Makes me want to just lock them in the nice, shady, temperature-controlled basement.

  15. Yeah, that zinc oxide is like trying to spread spackle on them. I get 75 parenting demerits, though, since it never even really occurred to me to worry about the chemicals - plus I still feed them Froot Loops for no good reason, so they're all chemicaled up AND lack nutrition. Don't tell anyone.


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