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Busted: 6 Sun Protection Myths

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Beach woman holding up hand with sunscreen

Sunscreen use may seem like a no-brainer, but there are many misconceptions surrounding it that lead people away from the protective product. Misunderstandings over the way ultraviolet (UV) light affects the skin as well as the safety and function of common sunscreen ingredients can prove harmful.

Clients may be unaware that UV light comes in two forms that are both protected by sunscreen—UVA and UVB. UVA light has longer waves that go deeper into the skin to cause wrinkles, aging and a compromised immune system, while the shorter waves of UVB light cause sunburn and contribute to the development of skin cancer.

Take note of the following myths that clients may believe about sunscreen.

Myth 1: Not Everyone Needs to Wear Sunscreen

Those with darker skin tones are still susceptible to skin damage. While higher melanin levels in the skin can help to diffuse UVB rays, “[Skin cancer] is a reality for individuals with all skin types,” according to Antonio P. Cruz, M.D., of Skin Pros. Survival rates are lowest in people of color due to a delay in diagnoses, partly because of this "built-in sunscreen" myth.

Myth 2: One Sunscreen Application Equals One Day of Protection

Sunscreen breaks down in the light and needs to be reapplied at least every few hours. Additionally, even products marketed as water- or sweat-resistant will still eventually wear off when exposed to water, and should be reapplied once dry. Users should also pay attention to products’ expiration dates, as ingredients break down and loose efficacy over time.

Myth 3: All Sunscreens are the Same 

Sun-protection factors (SPFs) vary, with the FDA recommending wearing at least SPF 15 regularly. Active ingredients also run the gamut, from titanium dioxide, ecamsule and zinc oxide to chemical blockers like avobenzone.

Myth 4: Sunscreen Is Bad for Overall Health

While many believe that daily sunscreen use may cause a vitamin D deficiency, experts advise that an appropriate amount of the nutrient can still be absorbed after only 5–30 minutes of sun exposure per day. Other worries about the common ingredient oxybenzone can be alleviated, since the research that pointed to its potential dangers used levels of exposure unattainable in humans.

Myth 5: Base Tans Are Healthy

Using a tanning bed to get a “base tan” before sun exposure does not protect against the harshness of the sun. Tanning beds use UVA light to quickly darken skin, which does not protect against the potential sunburns from the sun’s UVB light. Also, those in the sun for extended amounts of time will still tan, since sunscreen does not protect completely, especially when applied incorrectly.

Myth 6: Sunscreen Is Only Necessary on Sunny Days

Ultraviolet light is harmful to the skin, even on overcast days and when less skin is exposed. Protection is necessary whenever one is exposed to the sun—ideally a combination of sunscreen and covered skin, such as a wide-brimmed hat. Makeup, however, provides inadequate protection by itself.

Read more on these myths at medicalnewstoday.com (source).

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