Understanding sunscreen myths requires a basic understanding of UVA and UVB light. They are both forms of ultraviolet (UV) light that can affect the health of your skin after exposure. UVA light has a longer wave that penetrates into the thickest layer of skin, called the dermis. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays can lead to skin aging, wrinkles, and a suppressed immune system. UVB rays have a shorter wave and are most responsible for sunburns, which is the burning of the top layer of skin. UVB rays can play a key role in developing skin cancer, and frequent sunburns may cause permanent damage over time.
Spotting Skin Cancer
Whether you have had consistent, unprotected sun exposure over the years or you’ve been vigilant about protecting your skin, you should always do a self-check to make sure your skin isn’t experiencing changes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Early detection and seeing a board certified dermatologist are two important steps in treating skin cancer. Here’s an infographic to help you know what to look for.
Now that we’ve gone over the differences in rays and talked about skin cancer, let’s get in to myths that need busting!
Sunscreen Myths – Busted
Myth: Having a base tan helps protect your skin.
Busted: A suntan doesn’t provide your skin with nearly enough protection. Moreover, the tan itself is a sign of skin damage. (After being hit by UV rays, the cells in your skin produce melanin to prevent greater damage.) In particular, it’s risky to use tanning beds before summer. Tanning beds emit a lot of UVA radiation, which is less likely to burn the skin than UVB, but which penetrates deeper into your skin.
Myth: People with dark skin can spend more time in the sun without harm.
Busted: Melanin, the compound that colors one’s skin, provides the equivalent of an SPF of about 1.5 to 2, which lowers the risk of skin cancer in people of color. However, this does not eliminate the risk. Because people of color tend to assume they’re naturally protected, they’re often diagnosed with skin cancer when it’s more advanced and potentially fatal. It is essential that people of color use sunscreen to protect themselves from skin cancer, sunburns, and aging.
Myth: Reapplying your sunscreen is unnecessary.
Busted: Your SPF wears off over time, so we recommend reapplying every two hours.
It can be hard to remember to do, but reapplying is absolutely necessary. Here’s why: Any type of sunscreen (chemical or mineral) will naturally break down on your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight – or even when you’re just going throughout your workday. Think about it…you’re walking around, touching your face and (if it’s hot out) potentially sweating, so SPF will naturally fade and degrade, even over a period of minutes.
Myth: Sunscreen is not always necessary.
Busted: Many people believe that sunscreen is only necessary when their entire body is exposed to sunlight, such as when at the pool or swimming in the ocean. Ultraviolet light is still harmful to exposed skin, no matter how much of it is exposed.
Some people also believe that sunscreen is not necessary on cloudy days because the sun does not feel as strong as usual. The truth is that anytime the body is exposed to light from the sun, it is exposed to UV rays, even if it is an overcast day.
The lower arms and face are common areas to leave exposed throughout the day, which may increase their risk of sun damage. It is best to cover the exposed skin with sunscreen and consider other protective methods, such as wearing a hat.
Myth: The SPF in my makeup is enough.
Busted: Some people may rely on sunscreen in their makeup. But you might need more than that. It can wear away quickly in makeup, leaving you without ample protection.
It’s fine to have sunscreen in your makeup, but consider it an extra layer, not your main line of defense.
Do you have questions about what type of sunscreen you should be wearing? Feel free to contact me!