5 Sunscreen Myths, Debunked
Many people correlate sunscreen solely with the summer months. It’s whipped out ahead of a beach trip and then buried with the rest of the season’s totems once winter rolls around. If that’s you, well, you’re doing it all wrong. Newsflash: You need to wear sunscreen 365 days a year—regardless of whether the forecast indicates sunshine or pre-monsoon showers—to protect your skin. Anyone who tells you otherwise is leading you astray. Ahead, five sunscreen myths you should never fall for.
MYTH #1: I CAN SKIP IT WHEN THERE ARE CLOUDS
If you think you can pass on sunscreen just because there’s cloud cover, think again. Skin damage and sunburn can still occur even if it doesn’t look (or feel) like the sun’s shining down on you. That’s why you always, always, always (have we made this clear, yet?) need to wear an SPF of 30 or higher if you’re going to be outdoors, rain or shine, year-round—no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
MYTH #2: IT’S NOT NECESSARY TO REAPPLY
False! The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. If you go swimming, sweat excessively, or pat dry, reapply immediately afterwards. And don’t be stingy with your applications. Follow the guideline of using about one ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, for exposed areas. Adjust that amount depending on your body size.
MYTH #3: ALL SUNSCREENS ARE CREATED EQUAL
This is simply not so. Most sunscreens differ in the way they protect your skin. Some boast various active ingredients, such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and avobenzone. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This combination helps protect your skin from sunburn, premature skin aging, and skin cancer.
MYTH #4: USING A HIGHER SPF WILL MAKE SURE I DON’T BURN
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, a measure of how well sunscreen protects against UVB rays—the type that burn the skin. For example, if it takes 20 minutes without protection to begin burning, an SPF 15 sunscreen might prevent reddening 15 times longer—about five hours, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. The Mayo Clinic suggests that when applied correctly, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will provide slightly more protection than one with an SPF of 15, but it isn’t twice as protective. Additionally, there is no scientific evidence that indicates using a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 50 can protect you better than a sunscreen with an SPF of 50, according to the AAD. Rather than looking at the sunscreen’s SPF, choose one that offers broad-spectrum protection and use as directed on the label.
Note: Currently, there’s no sunscreen out there that’ll protect you from 100% of UV rays, so there is a chance you could still burn even if you reapply on time. That’s why derms recommend taking additional precautions when outdoors, like wearing protective clothing and seeking shade when appropriate.
MYTH #5: SUNSCREEN DOESN’T HAVE TO MATCH MY SKIN TYPE
Of course it does! All skin care products should be suited for your skin type to avoid any potential irritation, as well as to help maximize its efficacy. Reach for one that’s non-comedogenic—so your pores are in the clear—and safe for your skin type, in addition to being broad-spectrum, water-resistant, and an SPF of 30 or higher. Need some help? We’ve laid out our favorite sunscreens for dry, normal, sensitive, and oily skin, here.