Happy May, everyone! The countdown until summer has officially begun! Sunshine and longer daylight hours can do wonders for our emotional health, but the sun can actually be very dangerous. In addition, there are many misconceptions about sunscreen and the sun that people often get confused by, only furthering its harmful capabilities. Once and for all, we've gotten to the bottom of ten very popular (but very untrue) myths about the sun. Some of the information might actually surprise you!
Myth 1: All sunscreens are the same
There are various types of sunscreens available for different skin types, sensitivities, and lifestyles. Dr. Sandra Read, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Georgetown University gives a very important piece of advice: "Find a sunscreen formula that fits your life and lifestyle...if it's too heavy, sticky, or expensive, you're not going to wear it." It's important to self-diagnose your skin type and your daily activity before choosing a sunscreen. If you have oily skin, you'll want a formula that's oil-free or "grease free," like Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Sunscreen SPF 15. (also comes in SPF 30, and SPF 50). If your skin is dry, you'll want to avoid lotions that have alcohol in them, and instead opt for ones with extra hydrating ingredients, such as Ahava Sun Moisturizer with SPF30, which contains Dead Sea minerals and moisturizers that help replenish and hydrate your skin.
Myth 2: If I wear "water proof" sunscreen, I don't have to reapply after I go swimming
Even though sunscreen may claim to be water proof, it doesn't mean you are home free after hours in the pool. If your active or are in the water often, you'll want a sunscreen that is labeled "water resistant," like Australian Gold's Continuous Sport Spray with SPF 50, which keeps its SPF up to 80 minutes of activity in the water or sweating. But keep in mind that water resistant formulas do not mean they are "water proof" and should be reapplied as soon as possible after excessive swimming or sweating.
Myth 3: My sunscreen is SPF 4, that means I am protected for four hours in the sun
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number next to it represents the number of times longer you can stay in the sun compared to being in the sun without sunscreen at all. This amount of time differs for every individual and with the different intensities of the sun. The number is not equal to hours or minutes and changes throughout different times in the day. For example, if it typically only takes you fifteen minutes in the sun at 8am to start burning, then SPF15 will give you 225 minutes (15 x 15) of sun protection before burning (but only when the sun is at the same intensity at 8am). At 1pm, the sun is much stronger, and thus the time in the sun until burn will decrease. Most dermatologists recommend using at least SPF 30, and certainly no less than 15 to ensure proper protection.
Myth 4: I only have to apply sunscreen once a day
Most dermatologists recommend that you reapply sunscreen throughout the day to maximize its effects. In addition, the first time you apply should be at least 30 minutes before you go outside. (This is about how long it takes for sunscreen to be absorbed fully by your skin).
Myth 5: I don't have to wear sunscreen when it's overcast or cloudy
Some studies actually suggest that even on days with thicker cloud cover, that the sun's rays can penetrate the skin. UV rays can pass right through clouds. It can actually be even more dangerous since you are unaware that the sun is doing any damage.
Myth 6: I only need sunscreen in the summer when I'm laying out in the sun by the pool or at the beach
While the sun is the most intense during the summer months, and you are more likely to be wearing less clothing and spending more time outdoors, it does not mean that sunscreen should be stored away during the winter. The sun is still capable of doing damage during the winter months. Your face is is likely more sensitive than the rest of your body, is the most exposed to the sun, and thus will be mostly likely show wrinkles long term. We recommend using a daily moisturizer that has a built in SPF (like Cetaphil Daily Facial Mositurizer with SPF 15) to ensure maximum coverage every day - even during months where you're not outside as much. Your lips are also very sensitive and often exposed to the sun more than you realize. We recommend using a lip balm that has SPF in it, like KMS Solperfection Lip Balm with SPF 30.
Myth 7: My sunscreen doesn't have an expiration date - that means it does not expire
Some sunscreens come with expiration dates, but many don't. This doesn't mean that the sunscreen from the bottom of your beach bag will last forever. The rule of thumb is about three years, however many outside factors like heat can cause sunscreens to lose their effectiveness. If the color, texture, or smell appears a little off, toss it! Better safe than sorry!
Myth 8: Skin cancer is uncommon - it only affects those people who go in tanning beds several times a week
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer (approximately half of all cancer cases in the US). Over one million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year- and the majority of these are sun-related. Non-melanoma means that they occur on the outermost layers of the skin. While people who are exposed to tanning beds and are in the sun for longer periods of time are more likely to get skin cancer, other factors such as genetics can also play a factor in skin cancer susceptibility.
Myth 9: UVB rays are the only dangerous ultra-violet rays.
There are many misconceptions about the differences between UVA and UVB rays. UVB are mostly responsible for for direct damage to cell DNA, thus causing sunburn, and thus the skin growth, which can lead to skin cancer. However, UVA rays are also dangerous to the skin. UVA rays cause skin cells to age and are linked to long-term skin damages like wrinkles and spots. Because the effect of UVA rays is not initially apparent, they are often discredited. In addition, studies now show that both UVA and UVB rays are capable of causing types of skin cancer, and it is widely upheld by doctors and scientists that there are no safe UV rays. SPF is only an indicator of UVB ray protection. To ensure that your sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays, look for "broad spectrum" on the label.
Myth 10: You can't get tan while wearing SPF.
This is a very common argument made especially amongst young people who want lay out by the pool all day and get as tan as possible. The biggest mistake you can make is to lay out in the sun without SPF. Not only are you increasing your risk for sun damage and skin cancer, but you are also much more likely to burn not tan! Your skin's natural reaction to the sun is to change color slightly, so you will likely get somewhat darker even while wearing protective SPF. Tanning oils are effective ways to increase your sun tan, so if you must use them, we highly recommend using ones that have built in SPFs, like Banana Boat Protective Tanning Oil Spray with SPF 15 (also comes in SPF 8 or SPF 4) or Hawaiian Tropic Protective Tanning Dry Oil with SPF 12. We promise, the SPF will protect you from the rays without fully blocking your color! Another option - apply a protective sunscreen first like Banana Boat Sun Wear Lotion SPF 50, then choose an oil to apply on top, like Australian Gold Exotic Oil. Remember, it is never wise to apply oil directly to your face (talk about asking for a break out!). Another option, sunless tanning (self-tanners) - they fake the sun kissed look without the added skin dangers. Check out our post about tips for self-tanning. Have more questions about sunscreen and sun damage? Ask us! We're happy to answer all your questions. Simply leave a comment below or email us at email@example.com.