Skin cancer is the single most common kind of cancer in the U.S. — half of all Americans who live to be 65 will have at least one occurrence of skin cancer in their lifetimes. There's a pretty easy way to protect your skin, and that's putting on sunscreen every day.
But it turns out there are some pretty long-standing myths about sunscreen that could be affecting the health of your skin. SheKnows spoke to Dr. William Wooden, director of operative services at Indiana University Health, about some of the things you may have heard about sunscreen and skin health, and he set the record straight. When it comes to protecting your skin, you can never be too careful, so here are the top seven myths that Wooden warned us to look out for.
1. Women with dark skin don’t need sun protection
"All skin types are vulnerable to skin cancer," Wooden said. "Darker skin is less susceptible to skin cancer due to greater amounts of melanin, but it is still important to wear sunscreen and be aware of new or unusual spots on the skin. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes damage to our DNA, and that’s what leads to cancer."
2. The higher the SPF, the more protected you are
According to Wooden, "All you really need is a 15 to 30 SPF. The sunscreens with higher SPFs will work, but are not totally necessary for most people. The key is to find a high-quality sunscreen that works for you and reapply, reapply, reapply."
3. Sunscreen is the only way to protect my skin
"Wide-brim hats (no baseball caps!), umbrellas, pop-up tents and protective clothing are all great ways to protect your skin in addition to sunscreen," Wooden explained. "Sun-protective clothing can be lightweight, fun and stylish."
4. All sunscreen is created equal
"There are two types of sunscreen: chemical, which changes UV rays into heat, and physical, which deflects UV rays," Wooden said. "Both are effective, so you want to find one that works for you. If you are prone to breakouts, try a physical sunscreen by looking for titanium dioxide on the label."
5. It’s a good idea to get a base tan before spending a lot of time in the sun
According to Wooden, "You want to avoid any and all burns. Tanning in a tanning bed to achieve a base tan before your vacation, or at any time, is a bad idea. Use of tanning beds can increase risk of melanoma by up to 75 percent."
6. I only need to wear sunscreen when I’m on vacation
"Sunscreen should be worn by people of all ages and skin types, any and all times you are in the sun," Wooden said. "The more we protect our skin, the less we will age and the less likely we will be to develop skin cancer."
7. I only need to wear sunscreen during prime sun hours
"Sun damage can absolutely happen outside of the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. window," Wooden explained. "In the early mornings and late afternoons, on sunny or cloudy days, UV rays cause damage. That damage of skin cells can lead not only to cancer, but to premature aging with wrinkles, sagging skin and age spots."
I know I've fallen into the habit of only wearing sunscreen for part of the time I spend in the sun. What sunscreen myths have you fallen for?
This post was sponsored by Olay.