The Sun Protection Star Rating System Explained

Author: Professor Brian Diffey

Date: OCT 2016

Earlier this year we launched our Sun Awareness survey in order to gain insights into our member’s knowledge of sun safety and the dangers of too much sun exposure. Following the publication of the results of that survey we opened a dedicated forum to allow our members the opportunity to discuss these results and share their thoughts. It was noted by a number of our members that there needs to be more education around sun safety ratings. With SPF and Star Rating systems, it can be a daunting task picking the sun cream that is right for you.

In order to get an understanding around the sun cream star rating system, we went to its creator, Professor Brian Diffey to get a full explanation:

When you pick up a bottle of sunscreen the first thing you see is the SPF rating on the front of the bottle. But turn the bottle over and on the back is the Star Rating, which can range from 1 to 5 stars.

But just what does the Star Rating tell us? To understand more, we need to go back to first principles. What we know is that by reducing the intensity, or strength, of the sun's ultraviolet rays on our skin, we reduce the likelihood of damaging our skin - either by getting sunburnt that day or developing skin cancer later in life.

Nature understands the importance of this so that when we seek natural shade by stepping under a tree, or wear clothing to protect our skin, we reduce the overall strength of the sun's UVB and UVA rays almost equally. In other words, Nature is providing us with balanced protection against both UVB and UVA.

And that's just what we would like to achieve when we apply a sunscreen to our skin. So how do we know if we're getting balanced protection? That's where the Star Rating comes in. The higher the number of stars, the more balanced the protection.

So the next time you're wondering what sunscreen to buy, the first thing to do is to look at the back of the bottle and choose one offering 4 or 5-star protection. Then decide on what SPF you'd like. If you're keen to protect your skin as much as possible, you need to choose a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher. But if you'd prefer only moderate protection so that you can maybe get a light tan, then go for something lower like SPF15.


Professor Brian Diffey
Inventor of the Boots Star Rating

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Last revised: 26 October 2016

Next review: 26 October 2019