Top 10 Sunscreen Half-Myths

Most popular myths have a half-truth to it. Over time the truth might become distorted, misinterpreted, or no longer relevant, but generally most myths have a reasonable, if unscientific origin. Then there are ones are based on false assumptions.

Myth: SPF Number tells you how good the sunscreen is.

Truth: 50% true.

Takeaway: SPF is important. It's a measurement of how well it protects the skin from UVB rays, but it isn't everything. Protection from UVA rays is just as important; 95% of the UV rays that we are exposed to are UVA rays. You need to evaluate the overall effectiveness sunscreen. If you have a chance, ask for some advice from a beauty advisor or a dermatologist.

Myth 2: Sunscreen should be used for special occasions like going camping or outdoor swimming.

Truth: ...like how you should reserve showering and washing for special occasions. 0% true.

Takeaway: Bug sprays can be reserved for special occasions; sunscreens should be a part of daily skincare routine. Sun damage is cumulative, and every exposure harms your skin, increasing your chance of developing skin cancer, and accelerating skin aging. Most dermatologists believe that regular sunscreens use is the most important skincare routine as sun exposure is constantly damaging your skin.

Myth 3: A lot of people seem to be allergic to sunscreens!

Truth: ...like how there seems to be a lot of doctors where people are sick. 10% true.

Takeaway: Do doctors cause people to be sick? It's possible but unlikely. Unless you've confirmed with an allergist, it's far more likely that the sunscreen that you use isn't providing you with adequate protection from UV rays, particularly UVA rays triggering the allergy. People who get an allergic reaction during the spring/summer season when they start slapping on their sunscreens and going outdoors (sunscreens really should be applied all year) might feel that the sunscreen is to blame, but it's usually the sun that is to blame. There may be certain sunscreen ingredients that you are allergic to, but unless you've confirmed with a professional it's unlikely.

Myth 4: Starting with a base tan is a good way to protect your skin from future sunburns.

Truth: ...like how eating fast food helps you burn more calories by making you heavier. 0% true.

Takeaway: There's no basis for a base tan. Tanning is your body's melanin furiously trying to protect your skin from further exposure to UV rays. While a tan does provide some protection from sunlight, it is evidence that your skin is already damaged. Be smart, and slap on a sunscreen.

Myth 5: You can't get burned while swimming.

Truth: Swimming is the most common activity where people get burned. 0% true

Takeaway: Unless you're deep sea diving, your skin can and will get sunburned. Water reflects light well, so you can get a double dose of UV rays both from direct light, and reflected light. Be smart and use sunscreens when swimming and make sure you reapply often. Even the waterproof sunscreens wear off more easily when swimming so make sure you reapply sunscreens. Wearing a cap helps protect your scalp from burns.

Myth 6: Sunscreen isn't necessary for people with dark skin.

Truth: 20% true

Takeaway: It is true that people with darker skin are less prone to some of the well known effects of sun damage such as sunburns and skin cancer. However, people with darker skin are at higher risk of other sun-related concerns like hyperpigmentation. Sun protection is for everybody.

Myth 7: Sunscreen stops me from getting my Vitamin D.

Truth: 20% true

Takeaway: For people living near the poles where sunlight is extremely limited, there may be a case of vitamin D deficiency. Unless conditions are extreme, however, the body requires just 10 minutes of incidental exposure to produce adequate vitamin D. In fact, the body stops producing vitamin D after a very short amount of exposure, or else we would overdose on vitamin D quickly. Fortified foods and drinks, supplements, and incidental exposure from the sun are more than enough vitamin D for most people.

Myth 8: Sunscreens are the only way to protect from the sun.

Truth: 80% true

Takeaway: Sunscreens are certainly the most practical way of reducing sun exposure for the vast majority of people. There are other ways to help reduce sun exposure however. Avoiding the sun altogether isn't realistic, but minimizing exposure when the sun is high between 11 and 3 makes sense. Simply staying in the shade makes a big difference. Wear long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat to add extra protection.

Myth 9: Sunscreens are only for the summer.

Truth: ...like clothes are only for the winter. 0% true

Takeaway: UVA rays which account for 95% of the UV radiation at the earth's surface are stable throughout the seasons.

Myth 10: Organic sunscreens are healthier.

Truth: 0%. Organic/mineral sunscreens reflect the sun's rays away, while the chemical or traditional sunscreens absorb the light energy and convert it into harmless heat.

Takeaway: Organic is a popular keyword these days, but in terms of sunscreens, they refer to a difference in method of sun protection. Organic or mineral sunscreens are just as "processed" as their traditional or chemical counterparts are. Whatever your feelings with organic food are, the comparison is weak when it comes to sunscreen products. When formulated properly, both types of sunscreen can work equally effectively.