5 Greatest Myths about Sunscreen

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If you don’t quite understand how sunscreen works, your health could suffer the consequences.

Exposing yourself to strong sunlight without protection puts you at risk for sunburn, becoming wrinkled before time, and finally and most scary – developing skin cancer – which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.

For that reason we have uncovered the greatest sunscreen myths in order for your skin and overall health not to be affected by sun exposure.

Myth #1 – You don’t need sunscreen.

Some people think that, if they go to the beach and spend their time in the shade, they don’t need sunscreen because they are not directly exposed.

Even in the shade or during a cloudy summer day, sunlight gets to your skin and you can get sunburn if you don’t put sunscreen.

Dermatologist Jennifer Stein, MD, Ph.D. from the University Langone Medical Center in New York claims that even if your skin is naturally dark, you still need sunscreen to protect you from the UVA and UVB rays. Even though with darker skin you are less likely to get sunburn, your skin can still be affected in other ways.

Stein also claims that tanning before a vacation with the purpose of not burning on vacation isn’t really worth your while and it will not protect you from getting burned. Tanning in a tanning bed protects you less than getting tanned the natural way and it damages your skin even more.

Myth #2 – All sunscreens are the same.


This is very wrong. Sunscreens can differ in various ways, from the protective factor to whether they are waterproof or not, and to how they hydrate your skin.

For example, some sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect you from UVA and UVB rays, while some use other chemicals such as Helioplex, Meroxyl SX and avobenzone.

Stein argues that sunscreens based on Helioplex and Meroxyl SX protect you better and break down more slowly so they protect you longer as well. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests always buying sunscreen with a SP factor of 30 or higher, so you would be well protected against UVA and UVB light.

Myth #3 – It is enough to put sunscreen once a day.

To be protected from sunrays you need to apply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, because it gets washed away (by water if you swim, or by sweat). Also, don’t put sunscreen sparingly, but generously if you want to be well protected. Some sunscreens are waterproof but not too much, and if you swim for a while a good part of it will get washed away. Moreover, the FDA says that the labels “waterproof” and “sweatproof” don’t have to mean that these sunscreens really are exactly that.

Myth #4 – Putting sunscreen on your arms, legs, back, and face is enough.

Yes, these are the most important areas which you should definitely not miss, but there are parts of your body that are also sensitive to sunlight and need to be protected.

For example, the ears and the back of the neck. Stein says that those areas are often neglected, but sunburns can occur there too, so you need to be more careful.

Also, you need to protect your lips, and the American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a lip balm with a SPF of no less than 30.

Myth #5 – You can use last year’s sunscreen.

This has something to do with being generous with sunscreen. Stein argues that if you were putting enough sunscreen last year, you will not have any left for this year. But also, the expiration date could have passed, as some sunscreens have short expiration dates and spoil quite easily, so make sure you’ve checked that.

In any case, it is best to buy a new sunscreen each year and always give yourself the best protection possible.