Warmer temperatures invite us outdoors for activities that expose us to the sun’s warm but dangerous rays. Health specialists recommend using sunscreen to protect the skin from the risks of sunburn and skin cancer while enjoying the great outdoors; but not everyone understands how sunscreen works. To remedy these misconceptions, here is the truth about eight common sunscreen myths.
Sunscreen doesn’t expire
Although you might think sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date, it actually does. According to Jon Johnson, contributor to Medical News Today, the active ingredients in sunscreen eventually break down and are no longer effective in protecting from the sun.
Some sunscreen bottles will list an expiration date so you know how long you have to use them. For the ones that don’t, it’s a safe bet to use the contents within three years from when you purchased the sunscreen, according to Mayo Clinic member Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.
One application is enough
Although some sunscreen packages might claim that the product lasts all day, that’s not actually the case. According to Dr. Cameron Rokhsar, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, this is just “hyped up marketing,” as he explained in a Today article. He recommended applying sunscreen every two to three hours, no matter what type of sunscreen you’re using or how long it says it lasts.
Some sunscreens are 100 percent waterproof
Once again, this is another claim that sunscreens can’t deliver on. Although some types of sunscreen might be more resistant to water than others, no sunscreen can be totally waterproof, as Johnson also explains. It’s important to apply sunscreen at least 10 to 15 minutes before going swimming or engaging in a water sport, as well as reapplying it afterward.
Drinkable SPFs are great substitutes for sunscreen lotion
There’s a new trend to protect yourself from the sun: ingesting products like Osmosis Harmonized H20 UV Neutralizer, instead of applying conventional sunscreen to your skin. Per Rokhsar, there’s no scientific support that backs the claims of oral SPF products, so it’s best to stick with sunscreen lotion for skin protection.
A dark complexion requires little or no sunscreen
While pale-skinned individuals are more prone to sunburn, those with darker skin are not immune to the dangers of UV rays. As Boer Deng, contributor with The Washington Post, notes, while melanin in the skin acts as a mild defense against skin damage, it only offers an SPF value of 1.5 to 2.0, which isn’t strong enough to shield your skin from UV rays.
Sunscreen is more effective than covering up
It turns out, covering your skin with clothing or accessories like hats is a better defense against sun damage than sunscreen lotion, as Johnson identifies. For even more protection against UV radiation, Rokhsar suggests donning SPF clothing, which is 100 percent effective.
SPF is the most important quality
It’s easy to think that SPF is the most vital factor to consider when you’re browsing sunscreens at the store. According to Maya Guhan with Berkeley Wellness, that’s not accurate. While SPF relates to the sunscreen’s protective capacity against UVB rays, you also have to consider its protection against UVA rays. Make sure that the sunscreen you decide to purchase has “broad spectrum” written on the label, to ensure that the lotion will properly shield you from both UVB and UVA rays.
Shelter is just as good as sunscreen
It’s tempting to think that if you’re under a beach umbrella, you’ll avoid getting sunburnt. However, sand accounts for 17 percent of UV radiation, so you can still experience some level of skin damage even if you’re under the umbrella rather than in direct sunlight, Guhan warns. She cites a JAMA Dermatology study from 2017, which indicates that 80 percent of people who sat under a beach umbrella for 3.5 hours without sunscreen experienced sunburn that manifested itself the next day.
Implement these helpful strategies to maximize the benefits of sunscreen and keep your skin healthy.
This article is presented by Jannell Ford in Hanover, Massachusetts.