10 Biggest Sunscreen Myths

When someone asks, “If I only buy one product, what should it be?” we always say, “Sunscreen with moisturizer, and use it every morning. The best way to treat aging skin is to stop the main cause of aging!”

Sun exposure is the biggest enemy of the skin. Cumulative sun exposure causes premature aging including: deep and crisscross skin wrinkling, many types of hyperpig­mentation, wrinkly and sun damaged, can worsen rosacea, roughen skin’s texture, and is the major cause of skin cancer. (There are more cases of skin cancer than any other form of cancer, and sun is the major cause of melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer.)

Let’s examine some common myths and misunder­standings that people have about sunscreens and sun protection:

Myth 1: I use sunscreen whenever I am in the sun, but I’m not really out in the sun much…

Truth: For most people, the majority of sun damage does not occur purely from sun-bathing or direct sun exposure. Instead, it comes from everyday, ambient exposure to ultraviolet rays over a long period of time. Walking to the car, sitting in the car, walking the dog, or doing work near a window are all contributors. It is estimated that 80% of skin damage is caused by sun that comes from ambient day-to-day sun exposure! Everyone should use an SPF 15 (or higher!) broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning.

Myth 2: I know sun exposure is bad for my skin, but I’m going to age regardless, right?

Truth: Yes, we all are aging. But someone who practices a lifetime of good sun-prevention will have less skin degradation than sun worshippers. Those who spent a ton of time in the sun will have deep, crisscross wrinkling, severe skin sagging and loss of elasticity, leathery textured skin, any number of pigment issues including, but not limited to, dark splotches, “liver spots,” deep freckling (mottling), hypopigmented areas (white spots), and of course, skin cancers and other growths. The best way to treat aging skin is to prevent it by using a good broad spectrum sunscreen every single day. It is THE most important step in good skin care.

Heat also affects skin, and can contribute to inflammatory reactions and redness issues such as rosacea and telangiectasias. Even with sunscreen on, the heat from direct sun can cause aging damage.

Myth 3: Don’t all sunscreens do the same thing?

Truth: There are two major types of damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Ultraviolet Beta rays (UVB rays) are short rays that cause sunburn and damage to the outer layers of the skin. They cause the majority of skin cancers.

Ultraviolet Alpha rays (UVA rays) are longer, more deep-penetrating rays that go into the deeper dermis and cause the majority of the damage associated with premature skin aging, and are also believed to be the cause of melanoma.

In order for a sunscreen to be labeled “broad spectrum,” the FDA requires that the sunscreen must undergo a laboratory test called a critical wavelength test, which measures how much of both UVA and UVB spectrum of light is being filtered. Sunscreens that pass this test are allowed to be labeled broad spectrum, meaning that they filter a significant range of potentially damaging UVA and UVB rays.

Myth 4: I hate using sunscreens because they are greasy and smell.

Truth: The old “beach screens” of the 1960s and 1970s often did smell like coconut, and had an oily consistency. But sunscreens have come a long way since then. Today’s advanced science allows for elegant sunscreen formulas that are lightweight and conducive to everyday use. Sunscreens can be found in creams, lotions or even powder formulations, and they can be concocted to include good-for-you performance ingredients like hyaluronic acids, antioxidants and ceramides.

The trick to making sunscreen compliance EASY is to find one that is wearable, broad-spectrum, and preferably also acts as a moisturizer. When you find your unicorn of sunscreens, it will provide invaluable defense for your skin against the sun.

Myth 5: I want a little sun, so I usually don’t apply sunscreen until I start to turn pink. 

Truth: By the time you turn pink, sun-damage has already occurred. This damage will show up in your future as wrinkles, loss of elasticity, or maybe even a skin cancer. Every time you get red from sun (or don’t protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen), your skin produces enzymes that destroy your collagen, elastin, and hyuloarnic acid – all of the things that keep skin looking youthful and healthy. Over a period of time, this damage accumulates until it shows up as premature skin aging.

You should always apply sunscreen at least 20-minutes before sun exposure. Applying sunscreen after the skin is already red can actually cause additional inflammation or irritation.

Myth 6: When I feel like I might be getting sunburned, I go in the water and that stops the burning.

Truth: Cool water may make sunburned skin less painful, but the damage is already done. At the point where you feel burned, you should get out of the sun immediately.

The sun’s UV rays can penetrate through water and continue to burn your skin, despite the fact that you cannot feel this happening. Being in the water does NOT prevent sun exposure. (Also, if you are going in the water, the sunscreen should be water-resistant.)

Myth 7: It’s cloudy, I don’t have to use sunscreen today.

Truth: The powerful ultraviolet waves of the sun cut right through clouds, which only filter about 20% of the rays. Theoretically, you can get sunburned in a rainstorm if you stay out long enough!

Myth 8: After I burn at the beginning of the summer, I tan easier.

Truth: Burning your skin in the sun not only causes painful sunburn, it causes permanent damage to your skin. This damage can eventually cause skin cancer. Just for the record, a tan is an immune reaction; it is your skin producing melanin attempting to protect the lower layers of your skin from sun damage.

Myth 9: That sunscreen I use is very concentrated. It only takes a tiny bit to prevent me from burning.

Truth: Don’t skimp on sunscreen! Apply at least 8 dots of it to your face and neck and massage in. (Don’t forget the back of your neck and your ears.) For your body, it takes a full ounce of sunscreen (a shotglass worth), and it should be reapplied every two hours you are in direct sun.

Myth 10: Is my sunscreen from last year still good? I just found one in the trunk of my car!

Truth: Sunscreen formulas do degrade in heat. They also have expiration dates. Throw it out, and use a fresh, safe, wholly effective bottle.