Here’s a scenario that you’ve probably seen in the media: a family goes out to the beach and kids come home burnt to a crisp even though the mother slathered them in sunscreen. We all know to select a minimum of SPF 30 and reapply often, but not all sunscreens are made equal. I, for one, would choose my iS Clinical Extreme Protect 30 over a $5 bottle of SPF 50. Why? Well, sun protection factor (SPF) only tells part of the story.

Formulation is important and quality makes a huge difference. There are physical ingredients that physically shield you from the sun like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and there are chemical ingredients like avobenzone and octinoxate. The chemical ingredients filter sunlight through chemical reactions. People who believe that they are allergic to chemical blockers are usually actually allergic to the chemical reactions that are produced during sun exposure (there are also secondary reactions, so it’s like a reaction chain). A lot of the sunscreens I carry have both — a lot of physical with a little chemical — so that you get the most comprehensive protection, and the amount of chemical sunscreen ingredients is super minimal (not to mention higher quality) to reduce the chances of inducing sensitivity. These are incredible formulations because each ingredient is chosen for its ability to block a specific range of UVA, UVB, and UVC wavelengths, so a balanced cocktail will provide superior UV protection as well as respect the skin barrier.

We understand that 1 serving of freshly-picked, locally grown, organic raspberries is better for you than 3 servings of frozen berries shipped from the other side of the country that have been sitting in a freezer for months. I can also blend those lovely fresh raspberries with some quality yogurt and supplements and turn it into a smoothie for you, and it would still be 1 serving of fruit. I can then mix the frozen berries with some vanilla ice cream, too, but would you call this shake with 3 servings of fruit healthier than the single serving of fruit you get from the fresh smoothie? The same can be said when comparing SPF to SPF. It’s only one piece of information.

In skin care, like with food, the whole product must be considered, and that’s why high quality, well-formulated SPF 30s will hold its own and keep your skin just as happy (or even happier) than a random SPF 50 from the dollar store.