There is significant lack of consumer understanding of the SPF (sun protection factor) in sun screen products on the market and even less appreciation that some products provide protection at the price of unnecessarily exposing the user to potentially harmful chemical hazards. A risk which can be reduced through the use of products manufactured using micro encapsulation technology.
The SPF of sun screen products is a measure of how well they will protect skin from the harmful UVA and UVB radiation that causes sunburn and can contribute to skin cancer. Most consumers assume that the SPF factors on sun screen products are relative – so for example, using a product offering an SPF of 75 is prudent because it will reduce the risk of harm by providing more than twice the protection against damaging UV rays as a product with an SPF of 30. However counter-intuitively it is not necessarily the case that high SPF will automatically reduce risk.
This is because the SPF scale is not linear. It is actually an indicator of the number of harmful photons that will be blocked from reaching your skin. In fact sun screen products with an SPF 15 have been formulated to block 93% of UV rays; products with an SPF of 30 to block 97% of UV rays; and products with an SPF of 50 to block 98% of UV rays. So a really high SPF product may not actually give significantly greater protection than products with an SPF of 30.
A critical consideration should be that, according to dermatologists, the type and concentration of screening chemicals within higher SPF products may actually in themselves have the potential for harm.
Skin experts are becoming increasingly concerned about exposure to high concentrations of ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, 4-methylbenzilidene camphor and octinoxate that are used in sunscreen products to achieve their SPF rating. These chemicals can degrade on the skin and create free radicals that can causes premature ageing; be hormone disruptors or may even impact on the reproductive system and thyroid gland.
“Whilst different ingredients may each provide a degree of useful protection, encapsulation can significantly reduce any chemical risk by keeping substances away from the skin; encapsulation can also prevent interactions between different chemicals that do not combine well together (so you can actually reduce the overall concentration needed to achieve the SPF required); and it can achieve a slow release of active ingredients to prolong the effectiveness of products in use” says Professor Richard Holdich, Head of Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University and inventor of Micropore's microencapsulation technology.
So rather than automatically opting for an ultra-high SPF factor product, it actually makes sense to use a product that uses microencapsulation to minimise their chemical content. Most dermatologists recommend using a SPF 15 or SPF 30 sunscreen and all are in agreement that sun screen products are by no means all created equal when it comes to protection of the user. Microencapsulated products have the potential to offer maximum protection with minimum exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.