Falling prey to the rampant myths about UV exposure and sunscreen could cause much more than just a sunburn. Arming yourself with the facts, and taking the proper steps to protect yourself will help save your skin, and quite possibly, your life.
Myth No. 1: Sunblocks completely protect the skin.
The term sunblock is misleading because no product completely blocks UV rays. SPF ratings only indicate protection against UVB (burning rays), not that a product prevents sun damage or aging.
Myth No. 2: Getting a base tan will prevent sunburn and sun damage.
Studies by the National Cancer Institute prove that the increased pigment of a “base” tan before an extended period of sun exposure does not provide any extra UV protection, but rather increases the chances for more sun damage and skin cancer risks.
Myth No. 3: Tanning beds are a safe way to get a tan.
There is no such thing as safe tanning. Tanning beds emit primarily UVA rays, known as aging rays that damage the skin, trigger aging and skin cancers. One tanning session per month significantly increases the risk of melanoma, known as the deadliest skin cancer.
Myth No. 4: People with sensitive skin or allergies cannot use sunscreens.
While synthetically sourced sunscreens like PABA can cause allergic reactions, natural, mineral-based titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens actually soothe redness while naturally sourced octinoxate and octisalate are gentle enough for sensitive or allergy- prone skins. Still in doubt? Do a patch test on the side of your neck or arm prior to use.
Myth No. 5: It is healthy to spend time in the sun.
While 10 minutes of sun exposure in the early morning boosts Vitamin D, which is vital to our health, enhances moods and regulates sleep, any UV exposure is harmful to the skin. Many sources suggest taking a Vitamin D3 supplement instead.
Myth No. 6: Darker skinned people do not need to wear sunscreen.
While darker-skinned ethnicities have more protective pigment than lighter-skinned people, they are more inclined to develop hyperpigmentation and dark spots due to sun exposure, making sun protection vital. Melanin in African-American skin is reported to have a natural SPF of about 13, while the melanin in white-skinned ethnicities is roughly three. Even though darker-skinned people are less likely to burn, when they do burn, it is difficult to detect. Melanomas on African-Americans and Hispanics are often “hidden” on the palms, soles, underneath nails and mucous membranes, get overlooked and more likely result in fatalities. Regardless, everyone needs to be vigilant about sun protection as sunburn, sun damage and skin cancers exists for all.
Myth No. 7: All sunscreens cause breakouts, irritation and even cancer.
Not all sunscreens are bad. While synthetic sunscreens can cause irritation, breakouts and according to some sources, cancer, natural sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can soothe and heal blemishes and have antiseptic properties making them safe and beneficial for the skin. (so long as nanotechnology is not used).
Those who are prone to clogged pores and blemishes ought to avoid sunscreen formulas that contain mineral oil. And, while sun exposure may appear to clear up acne as it dries the skin, it is not recommended and may trigger rebound oil production, inflammation and more breakouts, not to mention sun damage or cancer.
Myth No. 8: I don’t need sunscreen if it’s cloudy or cool outside or I am indoors all day.
UVA rays can penetrate through clouds, windows in your house or car and are even emitted from light bulbs. How warm or cold the temperature is has no bearing on how much UV exposure you receive.
Myth No. 9: My makeup has sunscreen so I don’t need to apply more.
You’d have to apply a lot of makeup and reapply it to have adequate sun protection. For an easy alternative, try an all-in-one.
Myth No. 10: The higher the SPF the better.
There is no evidence to support that SPFs over 50 offer any additional UVB protection. Also, higher SPFs are chemical in nature and can cause undue irritation.
Myth No. 11: The damage is done, why bother?
A study by the American Society for Photobiology indicates that about 23 percent of sun damage is acquired by the age of 18 with 10 percent each decade thereafter. This proves that it’s never too late to start protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays.
Myth No. 12: If I use waterproof sunscreen, I don’t need to reapply the rest of the day.
The FDA banned claims of waterproof and sweat proof as this labeling misleads people to think they are protected all day long. Even with FDA permitted water-resistant labeling, reapplying every two hours is recommended during prolonged periods of sun exposure, when swimming, sweating or in humid climates.
Bottom Line: When sun exposure is unavoidable, remember that no base tan, natural dark-skin tone, SPF in makeup or clouds in the sky will protect you. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with natural noncomedogenic ingredients; it will not only prevent sun damage and premature aging, but it will potentially save your life, too.