It’s no secret that sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Even on a cloudy day, sunscreen is important for helping to reduce early signs of skin aging and skin cancer when used along with other sun protection measures. However, not everything you hear about sun care is true.
To cut through the confusion and help you best protect your skin from the sun, New York-based dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale debunks common sunscreen myths:
Myth: All sunscreens are created equal.
Truth: To best protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, look for the words “broad spectrum” when choosing a sunscreen, which means the product protects from both forms of UV radiation. Opt for a product with a minimum SPF 30, which can help protect you from approximately 97 percent of the sun’s damaging rays, and look for a product that is water-resistant.
Myth: Individuals with darker complexions don’t need sunscreen.
Truth: Having a darker complexion means more melanin is present in the skin, but this only works to diffuse UV light to a certain extent and doesn’t protect from skin cancer and sun-induced hyperpigmentation.
Myth: Sunscreen does not expire.
Truth: Digging through old beach bags and car trunks for sunscreen might seem cost-
efficient, but using an expired sunscreen puts your skin at risk. The active ingredients in most SPF products tend to break down after about three years, and even faster when exposed to high temperatures and direct sunlight, making the ingredients less effective in protecting you from sun damage.
Myth: A base tan will prevent sun damage.
Truth: To prevent further skin damage our bodies naturally build up melanin, which is what makes us look tanner, but this natural protection is nothing compared to the defense provided by sunscreen. Any form of skin tanning is a sign of sun damage. Just because there are no visible signs of sunburn, UV radiation and unprotected sun exposure can still damage the skin.
Myth: If a sunscreen says, “water resistant,” I don’t need to reapply after swimming.
Truth: Some performance sunscreens will say “water resistant” on the bottle, which is great. However, even these water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, and immediately after towel drying.
Having a basic understanding of sun protection and knowing the truth behind common misconceptions is key in safeguarding your skin and reducing your chances of premature skin aging and skin cancer. Along with taking additional measures to protect the skin, such as wearing a protective hat or coverup and minimizing time in the sun when it’s the strongest, applying sunscreen as directed plays a vital role in keeping you and your loved ones’ skin protected and healthy.