Sunscreen: 10 myths about sun protection debunked!

Sunscreen myths

When you seek some natural vitamin D from sunshine or step out of your house, you expose your skin to the sun rays, and in turn, to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This may cause sunburn, wrinkles, and even skin cancer in extreme cases. That’s why using sunscreen is a must, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen is an important skin care product, but there are many misconceptions about it, especially when it comes to the sun protection factor (SPF). Read on to know the myths about sunscreen, which should be part of your skin care routine irrespective of the season.

What is a sunscreen?

Sunscreen is like a protective screen or shield that you apply to your skin to guard it against the sun’s rays. Think of it as a barrier that prevents the harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin and causing damage, says dermatologist Dr Sachin Gupta. It is available in different forms like creams, sprays, and sticks, and works by either absorbing or reflecting the UV rays to keep your skin safe.

Know the misconceptions around sunscreen. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the common myths and facts about sunscreen?

Sunscreen is essential for all, no matter their skin tone or type. It safeguards against UV rays that can cause sunburn, accelerate ageing (like wrinkles and sunspots), and most critically, lowers the risk of skin cancer, says the expert. Here are some common misconceptions about sunscreen:

1. Myth: You don’t need sunscreen when it is cloudy

Fact: When the sun hides behind the clouds, you may think it is safe to step out without a sunscreen, but you are wrong. UV rays can penetrate clouds, so using sunscreen every day is necessary.

2. Myth: People with dark skin can skip sunscreen.

Fact: Even though darker skin has more melanin for some UV protection, it does not prevent skin cancer. Everyone can benefit from sunscreen, says the expert. Broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of at least 15 help protect people from skin cancer and early skin ageing caused by the sun, according to the United States Food & Drug Administration.

3. Myth: Using sunscreen can block your body from making Vitamin D.

Fact: While sunscreen blocks UVB rays necessary for vitamin D production, most people do not apply enough or reapply it consistently enough to completely block all UVB exposure. Consequently, the effect of sunscreen on vitamin D synthesis is usually minimal. Regular, brief exposures to sunlight without sunscreen (about 10 to 15 minutes several times a week) are sufficient for maintaining healthy vitamin D levels.

4. Myth: Make-up with SPF is enough.

Fact: Typically, make-up with SPF provides inadequate protection compared to sunscreen. Make-up is not applied as thickly or as uniformly as sunscreen needs to be. So, it is best to use it alongside a dedicated sunscreen.

5. Myth: SPF above 50 doubles protection

Fact: High SPF offers more protection, but not double. For instance, SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent UVB rays, while SPF 50 about 98 percent, says the expert.

6. Myth: One sunscreen application lasts all day.

Fact: Sunscreen needs reapplication every 2 to 3 hours. You need to reapply it, especially after swimming, sweating, or drying off.

7. Myth: A small amount of sunscreen is enough.

Fact: Most people apply less sunscreen than needed, reducing its effectiveness. For proper protection, use about a teaspoon of sunscreen for your face and neck.

8. Myth: Sunscreen is waterproof.

Fact: There is no sunscreen that is entirely waterproof even though many manufacturers claim to produce them. They are water-resistant, and need reapplication after getting wet, says Dr Gupta.

Suncreen myths
Apply sunscreen even if it is a cloudy day. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

9. Myth: Sunscreen causes vitamin deficiencies.

Fact: There is no evidence linking the use of sunscreen to vitamin deficiencies. The primary function of sunscreen is to protect the skin from harmful UV rays, significantly outweighing any unproven risks regarding vitamin deficiencies.

10. Myth: Baby sunscreen is only for children.

Fact: Baby sunscreen is great for children, but it suits anyone with sensitive skin. It has mild formulation that is free from harmful chemicals and fragrances.

How to choose the right sunscreen?

You need to choose a sunscreen according to your skin type:

  • Oily skin: Use gel-based or non-comedogenic sunscreens that won’t clog pores.
  • Dry skin: Opt for sunscreens with moisturisers.
  • Sensitive skin: Choose mineral or physical sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, as they are less likely to irritate sensitive skin.

Sunscreen is a great way to protect your skin from the sun and its rays. But also cover up with lightweight and long-sleeved clothes, and wear sunglasses to protect your skin around your eyes.

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