You undoubtedly know that you should use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. But you might think that one or two days without sunscreen is okay. Or that you need sunscreen only at the beach or the pool. Or that you should spend time without sunscreen to improve your vitamin D levels.
Despite all of the information available about sunscreen, many myths about its use persist.
Myth: You don’t need sunscreen if you tan slowly.
You might think that if you tan slowly and get a tan, you are protecting your skin because you aren’t actually getting a sunburn. That isn’t true. A suntan is a result of sun damage. When exposed to the sun, your skin cells create more melanin, the pigment that produces the color on your skin. In order to produce it, your skin has to be damaged from the sun. While a tan gives you more protection than no tan, it is minimal. A tan gives you an SPF of 4 and doesn’t protect you from UVA and UVB rays. Cumulative sun damage can result in skin cancer. That means that anytime you damage your skin, you increase your risk of skin cancer.
Myth: I was sunburned as a child so the damage is already done. I don’t need sun protection now.
It’s true that just one sunburn increases your risk of developing skin cancer; however, it is also the cumulative effects of the sun that contribute to skin cancer. That means that every time you are out in the sun without protection you increase your risk. The sooner you start protecting your skin, the better; however, no matter what your age, it’s always important to be diligent about skin protection. It’s the same as with your health. You are never too old to lose weight, eat healthy or quit smoking.
Myth: People of color don’t need to use sunscreen.
It’s true that people of color have a lower risk of developing skin cancer than fair-skinned people. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t get skin cancer. And when people of color do get skin cancer, they are, according to research, more likely to die from it than are fair-skinned people. This may be because they are less likely to take precautions and may pay less attention to lesions and other early signs of skin cancer.
Myth: I am not sunbathing or going to be out in the sun much so I can skip the sunscreen.
Sunscreen isn’t just for those who sunbathe. You are exposed to the sun when driving or riding in a car, sitting near a window, taking a walk or being outdoors for short amounts of time. It is recommended that you use sunscreen every day, year round.
Myth: I don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days.
Clouds don’t stop the sun’s rays from reaching you. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays penetrate the clouds.
Myth: Water resistant sunscreen lasts all day.
There are two ratings for water-resistant sunscreen: 40 and 80. These ratings indicate how long the sunscreen is effective when you’re in the water or sweating–either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. That means it should be reapplied after that amount of time passes.
Myth: I am allergic to sunscreen.
You might be allergic or sensitive to one of the ingredients in the sunscreen you are using, but that doesn’t mean you are allergic or sensitive to all sunscreens. Check the ingredients of your current sunscreen and choose a product with different ingredients. Apply a small amount on one area of your body to see if you have the same reaction. If you do, consult your doctor or dermatologist to see what other options you may have.
Myth: Sunscreen doesn’t work.
If you use sunscreen and still get a tan or a burn, you are probably not using enough, need a higher SPF or are not applying sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. An SPF of 30 or more is recommended.
Myth: You should go without sunscreen sometimes to get enough vitamin D.
A well-balanced diet that includes milk, foods fortified with vitamin D and supplements are a safer way to make sure you get enough vitamin D. If you do get vitamin D from the sun, researchers say 10 minutes a day is plenty.
Myth: Chemicals in sunscreen cause cancer.
One chemical, oxybenzone, has been shown to be harmful in a few studies involving rats, but it hasn’t been found to be harmful to humans. Additionally, the amount of the chemical used in the studies is much higher than you would be exposed to after years and years of applying a great deal of sunscreen. That said, there also are sunscreens without this chemical.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.