We know there is a lot of information out there in the media and on the internet about sunscreens that can be confusing. Maybe you’re not sure if you can trust the information, or maybe these are just things you’ve been hearing about sunscreen since you were a kid. Well we’re here to debunk the 5 most common sunscreen myths and provide you with the facts so that you can be informed and enjoy spending time in the sun safely!
Myth #1: What SPF means
A popular misconception is that the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on a sunscreen bottle relates to the time you can spend exposed in the sun. Some consumers believe that a product with SPF 15 means you can stay in the sun for 15x longer than without sunscreen -- this is not true! According to the FDA, SPF is a measure of how much ultraviolet (UV) radiation is needed to produce a burn on protected skin, compared to unprotected skin. So the higher the SPF value, the more sunburn protection there is! SPF is related to the amount of sun exposure, not the time.
Myth #2: Reapplication
Most people don’t realize that you need to reapply sunscreen even if you haven’t been sweating or gone swimming. Dermatologists from Johns Hopkins Medicine recommend that sunscreen should be applied 15-30 mins before sun exposure, and reapplied every 2 hours!
Myth #3: You don’t need to wear sunscreen if it’s cloudy outside
Sun damage is caused by UV radiation from the sun, not temperature. UV radiation can penetrate through clouds and may even be more intense due to reflections off the clouds. An overcast day in the summer can have similar UV levels to a warm, sunny day.
Myth #4: People with darker skin tones don’t need to use sunscreen
This is false because skin cancer can affect anyone, and the leading risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to the sun’s UV rays. According to dermatologist Dr. Jenna Lester from UCSF, melanomas are the most dangerous form of skin cancer. They are less common among people of colour, but they have a much lower survival rate. This is due to the fact that the melanomas are more likely to be detected at a later stage when it's much harder to treat.
Myth #5: If you tan and don’t get sunburns, you don’t need to wear sunscreen
This is a myth because a tan indicates that your skin cells are under trauma from exposure to UV radiation. According to Cancer Council Australia, the skin darkens as a way of protecting itself from damage by UV radiation. Even if you tan easily, you're still at risk of skin cancer and should use sun protection when outdoors.
Have you ever fallen for one of these myths?