We’ve Decided to Bust the Most Common Sun Protection Myths Out There

We all love the sun, but what a pity it doesn't actually love us back! Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US. As of today, 1 in 5 Americans will get skin cancer in the future. This statistic is dreadful, and it's mostly due to the ozone layer's depletion. The number of holes in the ozone layer is constantly increasing, allowing too many ultraviolet rays to touch the surface of our planet, which leads to a fast growth of skin cancer cases.

Here at Bright Side, we want to debunk some of the most common and harmful myths concerning sunscreen and its usage so that you can be safe from the sun at all times.

The A-B-Cs of UV

There are 3 types of sun rays: type A (UVA), type B (UVB) and type С (UVC).

UVA rays are the most widespread and around 95% of them reach the surface of the earth regardless of weather conditions or the climatic zone. They penetrate through clouds and windows and reach our skin deeply. Along with a tan, they bring us free radical development which is one of the main reasons for aging.

UVB rays are more powerful but less harmful. They have a medium wavelength and are mostly absorbed by clouds and the ozone layer. These rays are considered to be the most damaging to our epidermis. UVB rays are active from 10 AM to 4 PM and result in sunburns, cell mutations, and skin cancer down the line. Luckily, they can't travel through windows.

UVC rays don't reach the earth at all because the atmosphere serves as a filter on their way in.

1. SPF math

SPF, otherwise known as sun protection factor, is the measurement of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin.

Most of us have heard that SPF 30 gives twice the protection of SPF 15. This isn't true. SPF 15 filters about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters approximately 97%, and SPF 50 combats 98% of sun rays. The difference may seem insignificant, and you might consider going for a lower SPF (especially when you see the price). But if you've had skin cancer in the past or are extremely light-sensitive, a higher percentage of SPF will do the trick.

"If I apply my regular moisturizer with SPF 15, then some foundation with SPF 30 and finish it with a powder of SPF 25, I'll end up with SPF 70 on my face, and that's good!" While you may say this to yourself, it doesn't actually work like that either, although this equation does make sense mathematically. SPF in cosmetic products doesn't sum up. What you'll end up with is the highest factor of working SPF regardless of how many layers you have on your face.

2. "It's cloudy outside - let's ditch sunscreen!"

Please don't ever ditch sunscreen if you're spending the day outside! Why not? Because up to 80% of the sun's rays get through the clouds and reach the surface of the earth. What's more, is UVA rays are active all year round, and they are much more dangerous than UVB rays which are only active from March to October.

This common belief often results in the most severe sunburns, as people tend to carelessly spend the whole day outside without sunscreen when it's gloomy outside. A cloudy day at the beach may seem like a better option for tanning as it's not as hot, but make sure to apply sunscreen anyway. The surface of the sea also reflects sunlight and empowers it even more against you.

3. A solarium is safer than tanning at the beach.

This is one of the most dangerous myths of all. The solarium is the beauty plague of the 21st century, even more so in Western countries. People believe that solarium tanning is safer than actual exposure to natural sunlight. But guess what - there is no such thing as a "safe tan". Any kind of darkening or reddening of the skin is a serious reaction to harmful ultraviolet rays.

First, most solariums use even more dangerous UVA waves which penetrate deeply into the skin and result in an overdosage in our bodies. Secondly, tanning in a solarium before going on a beach vacation doesn't prepare your skin for natural sun or prevent a sunburn in any way. The pigment that appears in the skin after a visit to the solarium is incomplete, unstable and doesn't create a protective thickening of the epidermis at all.

4. Dark skin doesn't get sunburnt.

Dark skin, fair skin... it's all the same! You get one type of skin to last a lifetime so you must do what you can to protect it. Yes, your skin tone affects the way you tan, react to sunlight and get burned, but it doesn't mean that people with dark skin are 100% protected from UV rays.

When skin gets red, it's visible on light skin tones right away, but a sunburn on darker skin doesn't show itself so obviously. However, peeling, pain, tightness and a rising temperature of the skin are all signs of a sunburn. Every sunburn increases your chances of getting skin cancer later in life, so using sunscreen no matter what skin color you have is a must.

5. Office workers don't need sunblock.

Office workers need sunscreen and if you've learned anything from this article's first paragraphs, you know why. Glass windows aren't capable of filtering UVA rays. So people who work in an office for most of the day or spend a lot of time driving a car are just as prone to harmful UVs as beach lovers are.

You may have noticed that some people have more freckles on the left side of their body (not the Brits though, since they drive in right-hand traffic, but they are freckled nonetheless) due to exposure to sunlight in the car. If your country laws allow it, consider installing a tinted window. They keep out 4 times more UVA rays than clear ones do. And if you work next to a window and consider yourself to have the best seat in the office, be sure to use sunscreen every day.

6. Sunscreen causes a vitamin D deficiency.

Everyone knows that vitamin D is produced in the skin under exposure to the sun. And because of that, many people think that sunscreen can lead to a vitamin D deficiency as it blocks ultraviolet rays, but it's not that simple. Vitamin D is an essential element to our health and wellbeing, so mother nature made sure we could get enough of it even in cases of insufficient UV ray exposure. So don't worry, vitamin D won't get washed away from you like sand at the beach everytime you go out with a layer of sunscreen on.

The second way to get vitamin D is from food. A high concentration of it can be found in fish like salmon, tuna, eel, herring and fish oil - or you can always take supplements. Usually, doctors prescribe doses from 400 units daily to 20,000 every other day. If you want to compare, a person gets about 20,000 units of sunlight during 13-30 minutes worth of sun exposure.

7. A thin layer of sunscreen is sufficient.

Treating sunscreen like regular cream or lotion isn't good. In the first place, remember to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you intend to go out and expose yourself to the sun. Otherwise, it just doesn't have enough time to absorb into your skin to start working. Also, make sure to apply it everywhere. Most people forget to apply sunscreen on their ears and neck.

Now, when it comes to how much sunscreen to apply, the recommended dosage is 5-6 tbsp for the body and about 1/2 tsp for the face. The more, the better! This amount can vary due to the product's formulation (lotion, mousse, cream, spray or gel), so read the labels carefully and follow recommendations.

8. Applying one time is enough.

SPF wears off pretty quickly. Apart from sun exposure, we sweat, swim, and deal with levels of humidity depending on where we live. All of these factors affect the number of times sunscreen should be reapplied. Standard recommendations say to reapply sunscreen every two hours, yet we forget to do so more often than not. One way to stick to the schedule is to use SPF 15 (which is lighter in consistency) or go higher every hour rather than applying a thick cream every 2 hours. It will also lessen the risk of not covering your whole body with sunscreen properly.

Another strict recommendation is to avoid being in the sun from 12 PM to 4 PM - during these hours, the sun is most active and serious sunburns are inevitable without proper protection.

9. Sprays are better than other formulas.

Many of us think that sunscreen in spray form is the best version of protection since it doesn't make your hands sticky or leak in your bag, plus it absorbs quickly. But truth be told, sprays are far from perfect in terms of skin protection. Due to the finely dispersed spraying application, the layer is too thin, so many body parts remain untouched and unprotected, resulting in a bad sunburn. Sprays also can't be used for the face and areas around it (ears and mouth, for example) because it is strictly forbidden to breathe them in. Plus they aren't economical at all - half of the product settles anywhere but you.

10. Waterproof sunscreen is the best.

Waterproof sunscreen doesn't exist, so it can't be the best one out there! Sunblock products can either be "water resistant" or "very water resistant". That means that it will stay on and work on your skin for 40-80 minutes of swimming. But all kinds of sunscreen have to be reapplied after you've taken a shower or have taken a swim in the water.

At Bright Side, we see every individual as a beautiful creature with their own unique traits. But to the sun, we're all exactly the same.

Take care and share this article so that more people can be warned against incorrect sunscreen usage and its deadly consequences!

Preview photo credit Depositphotos.com, Depositphotos.com
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