Whether you’re planning a beach day or you need that extra protection before doing some yard work, we all ask the same question when it’s super sunny: What is the best SPF level for sunscreen—15, 30, 50, or even higher? Turns out the answer is actually a lot more complicated than you might guess.
Luckily, we spoke with expert dermatologists to weigh in on what SPF means and how high of an SPF you really need.
If you don’t apply the proper amount—which is a shot glass full for the entire body, according to Adam Friedman, MD, associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University—the whole purpose is defeated. “Most people don’t put on enough sunscreen to get the full SPF listed on the label,” he explains. So while the listed SPF is 30 or 50, chances are, you only end up with about half that level of protection.