The Truth About Sunscreen

If you’ve ever spent an afternoon in the sun at a pool party, you’re probably familiar with sunscreen. Or at least, you should be. We’ve all heard how important it is to wear sunscreen, but most of us don’t really understand why. To help clear things up, here are some common myths and misconceptions about sunscreen explained.

MYTH: “I’m applying enough sunscreen.”
TRUTH: Studies show very few people actually use enough sunscreen. In order to get the full SPF printed on the bottle, you need to apply around one ounce (or two tablespoons) of sunscreen every time.

MYTH: “One application of sunscreen will last all day.”
TRUTH: Contact with anything - including water, clothes, towels, and other people - will rub off your sunscreen. Reapplying sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place. You should reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

MYTH: “I don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days.”
TRUTH: UV rays can cut right through clouds. Even on the cloudiest of days, 40% of UV rays still make it to the earth. In fact, spending a cloudy day outside without any sunscreen on causes some of the worst sunburns.

MYTH: “I only need sunscreen on my face and shoulders.”
TRUTH: You need sunscreen everywhere, even under clothes (especially if you’re wearing sheer or light-coloured fabrics). Have you ever noticed how the backs of your hands can look older than the rest of you? This is due to unprotected sun exposure. Skin anywhere will look younger for longer if you regularly use sunscreen.

MYTH: “I don’t need sunscreen if I have a base tan.”
TRUTH: A base tan is neither safe nor effective at protecting you from UV rays. A tan is the result of UV radiation damaging your skin’s DNA, causing gene mutations that can lead to skin cancer. Apart from being dangerous to start with, a base tan provides less sun protection than a white t-shirt, and way less than sunscreen.

MYTH: “I have dark skin, so I don’t have to worry.”
TRUTH: Skin colour is not the only factor in your susceptibility to skin cancer. You could have underlying genes that make you more or less sensitive. While it’s true that having darker skin could lessen your chances of getting skin cancer, no one is immune. Also, skin cancer on dark skin is often found late into its development, making it more difficult to treat.

MYTH: “I’m allergic to sunscreen.”
TRUTH: Sunscreen allergies are exceptionally rare; although it is possible you have sensitivity to sunscreen. If you find sunscreen is irritating your skin, try switching to a “physical” sunscreen (the active ingredients in physical sunscreens are usually either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide).

MYTH: “Even if I get skin cancer, it’s no big deal to get it removed.”
TRUTH: While it’s true that, in some cases, carcinoma can be sliced off, it’s not a guarantee. Even a tiny spot of carcinoma on your eyelid can lead to losing an entire eye. Many people end up losing their noses and ears as well. It’s best to try to avoid skin cancer all together.

MYTH: “Wearing sunscreen can lead to a vitamin D deficiency.”
TRUTH: Nope.

MYTH: “I can still use last year’s sunscreen.”
TRUTH: First of all, sunscreen can break down fairly quickly, rendering it useless. Make sure you throw out any expired sunscreen.

Secondly, a single bottle of sunscreen shouldn’t last you years. If you’re applying it adequately, you shouldn’t have any left at the end of the season. It’s also very possible that you’ll go through several bottles a year, if you have lots of pool parties to attend.

Here are some tidbits ON SUN SAFETY FOR YOU:

  • UV radiation causes premature skin aging, sagging, eye damage (including cataracts), and skin cancer. It also suppresses your immune system, reducing your ability to fight disease
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
  • Try to stay in the shade
  • Avoid tanning
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • To protect yourself from both UVA and UVB radiation, choose a sunscreen marked as “broad spectrum,” “multi spectrum,” or “UVA/UVB protection"
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15
  • For extended periods of sun exposure, use a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30

We hope you all have an amazing summer that is free of sunburns!

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