Busting 4 Important Sun Care Myths
Maybe because we want an excuse to sport a glowing tan and live a more carefree lifestyle—hey, there's something to that for sure—we’ve developed all sorts of misconceptions about caring for our skin in the sun...or shade.
Personally, I have fair skin and freckles; I have a family with a history of skin cancer; and a chunk of my childhood was spent as a beach bum (oh how I miss those glorious and, let's face it, HOT, tans). While I probably wouldn't trade in my carefree childhood, I'm certainly paying the price now. Having dealt with my own two little pre-cancerous spots in my 20s, I've been slathering on a sexy SPF 50 and popping vitamin D supplements ever since. And don't think you're off the hook for cancer or wrinkles if you've got that gorgeous skin that tans in 5 minutes...read on, dear friend, read on.
Here, with the help of sunscreen expert Vermén Verallo-Rowell, M.D., board-certified clinical and research dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon and dermatopathologist, we’ll debunk some all-too-common sun care myths.
Myth: If I'm in the shade, I won’t get burned.
Truth: While the shade is a good idea to protect your skin, its sun protection depends greatly on the material you are under and where you are. If you sit under a tightly woven, dark umbrella, nowhere near reflective surfaces like water or sand, then it is possible to obtain an SPF of 50, Dr. Verallo-Rowell says. However, most likely, you’re not. Dr. Verallo-Rowell recommends not relying on an umbrella alone for protection because light can find you from all angles. Also, you’re not in the clear just because you’re indoors—as much as 50 percent of the sun’s UVA rays can be found indoors because of glass windows.
Myth: I only need to wear sunscreen on exposed skin—otherwise, my clothes do the trick.
Truth: Hold your t-shirt or sundress up to the light. Can you see any sun penetrating through? Odds are the answer is yes, which means that UV rays are reaching your skin under your clothes. The tighter the fabric’s weave—not necessarily the thickness—and the darker the color, the better you’ll be protected, Dr. Verallo-Rowell says. Especially if you’re sporting your favorite thin white t-shirt, be sure to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (like this one) underneath.
Myth: If I apply foundation that has SPF, I don't need sunscreen.
Truth: Makeup’s primary purpose is not to act as a shield from the sun—it is made to add color to your face. You would have to apply about a teaspoonful or FIVE grams (that’s a whole lot of foundation!) in order to reach the SPF it touts on its packaging. In reality, the dime-sized amount you do apply will only add up to SPF 1 or 2. What’s more, the numbers of different products simply don’t add up—it doesn’t work that way. Dr. Verallo-Rowell recommends always wearing a sunscreen underneath makeup and looking for ingredients that protect from both UVA and UVB rays, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Myth: I have tan/darker skin that rarely burns, so I won’t get skin cancer.
Truth: Just because you don’t burn doesn’t mean you’re not susceptible to skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one in five African Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. According to Dr. Verallo-Rowell, the late stages of the disease is significantly more common in Hispanic and non-Hispanic black patients. While there are more melanoma cases reported in white skin, the death rate has actually gone down due to early diagnosis and regular screenings.