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Myths about sunscreen you should stop believing ASAP

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

7 Sunscreen myths that don't make sense

Yes, you need sunscreen... period.

More than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society. One of the chief causes of this dangerous and deadly disease? The lack of proper skin protection in the form of sunscreen.

You'd think that such an important tool for our skin's health would be applauded, but that's unfortunately not the case... and so-called "experts" and others are spouting some downright lies about sunscreen. Enough is enough. Let's call out the myths and get the real truth about the importance of sunscreen.

Myth 1: Sunscreen causes cancer

Just stop with this one.

Opponents of sunscreen cite a study that tracked sunscreen use and sun exposure in 1,500 people over two years. The results did show that those who wore sunscreen were more likely to develop melanoma, but the study left out that the sunscreen users — on a whole — spent a lot more time in the sun than those who didn't wear it. They also didn't use sunscreen with a high enough SPF — on average, they wore a SPF of 6, but the Centers for Disease Control recommends using sunscreen with a SPF of 15 as the bare minimum.

Myth 2: The higher the SPF, the better the protection

So, it seems like wearing sunscreen with a huge SPF — like 100 — would protect the skin more, right? Wrong.

"SPF 45 protects you from approximately 98 percent of the sun's rays," says Dr. David E. Bank, dermatologist and founder of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York. "No sunscreen will be able to protect you 100 percent, so spending more on SPF 100 doesn't do much more for you than SPF 45."

Ideally, you should wear a broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection sunscreen with an SPF of 30, according to Dr. Bank.

Myth 3: All sunscreen is created equal

"Lotion is always the best choice for sunscreen, as sprays and roll-ons do not distribute evenly on the skin," says Dr. Purvisha Patel, owner and dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Associates in Memphis, Tennessee. "Sprays can be dangerous for children because they can easily inhale harmful aerosols."

Avoid sunscreen-type chemicals, like oxybenzone and PABA, as some people can develop skin allergies to these ingredients, according to Dr. Patel. Instead, look for sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Myth 4: The sunscreen in your makeup is enough

The small amount of protection included in your powder or foundation isn't anywhere near enough to keep your protected all day, according to Dr. Bank.

"The main goal of makeup isn't to protect you from the sun. A daily moisturizer with added sunscreen is a better option. Or layer a lightweight, oil-free facial sunscreen under makeup for the best protection," he says.

Myth 5: You only need to apply sunscreen once, and don't bother if it's cloudy

Sunscreen — even water-resistant sunscreen — needs to be reapplied every two hours to be effective, according to Dr. Patel. The dangerous sun rays can also break through the clouds on an overcast day, so don't forget to wear it.

"It may not feel the same as a bright and sunny summer day, but always apply sunscreen to any exposed skin when leaving the house," says Dr. Patel.

Myth 6: Dark skin doesn't need sunscreen

Dark skin needs sunscreen, no matter what.

"All skin has the potential of burning and has equal potential of accelerating aging or increasing the chance of skin cancer," adds Dr. Patel. "While those with more melanin are less likely to burn, no one is immune to the harmful effects of the sun."

Myth 7: Sunscreen leads to vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to serious diseases, including rickets and osteoporosis. To combat this, medical professionals recommend at least 20 minutes of sunlight to synthesize the nutrient. Sunscreen does block the important rays that help the body do this, but there are many other ways to make up the vitamin D blocked by sunscreen. One of the easiest ways? Through a diet filled with vitamin D-fortified foods, including milk, fish and eggs.

More on skin health

Why it's never too late to cure sun-damaged skin
What you should know about moles and melanoma
Melanoma survivors neglect sun safety

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