Sunscreen Facts and Myths

Sunscreen facts and just the facts

Most experts believe using sunscreen is one of the best deterrents against skin damage and skin cancer. However, there are many myths circulating about the health dangers of sunscreen use. Below we’ll try to explain away the many sunscreen myths.

Sunscreen Myth: Sunscreen blocks the body from absorbing Vitamin D

Sunscreen Facts: Using sunscreen does not block the body’s ability to make vitamin D.

In fact, most people get enough sun exposure doing everyday outdoor activities, such as walking to the bus, across a parking lot, and for kids recess provides more than enough sun exposure for vitamin D development. Anyone concerned can boost their vitamin D production by eating foods such as fish, milk and eggs. Many experts believe the amount of sun exposure needed to get enough vitamin D is minimal.

Sunscreen Myth: You don’t need sunscreen if you have dark skin or already have a tan.

Sunscreen Facts: Everybody, regardless of race, ethnic origins and skin type is subject to the damaging effects of exposure to the sun. Even those who tan easily and rarely burn should use sunscreen. A base tan is no substitute for sunscreen either.

Sunscreen Myth: Does sunscreen with SPF-15 provide twice as much protection as SPF-30.

Sunscreen Facts: NO. Sunscreen with SPF-15 protects against 93% of UVB rays, while an SPF-30 protects against 97% of UVB rays. Super High SPF numbers (SPF-100+) are mostly marketing ploys. Most experts believe SPF-30 is enough, provided you put on enough.

SPF Explained

Sunscreen Myth: Sunscreens protect against both UVA (Aging rays) and UVB (Burning rays)

Sunscreen Fact: SPF ratings only apply to UVB protection. The FDA which regulates the sunscreen market is working on new labeling requirements for claims about UVA protection. Look for sunscreen labeled Broad-Spectrum and contains ingredients such as, avobenzone, mexoryl, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for UVA protection.

Sunscreen Myth: The amount of sunscreen you use doesn’t matter, as long as you use it.

Sunscreen Facts: If fact, most people don’t use enough or re-apply every 2 hours as recommended. At least one ounce, or the equivalent of a shot glass, is needed for most adults. It is best to apply 15-20 minutes before going outside to allow it time to be absorbed into the skin. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours. Learn how to apply sunscreen so you won’t get sunburn.

Sunscreen Myth: Waterproof sunscreen provides “all day protection” and does not need to be reapplied.

Sunscreen Fact: waterproof sunscreens loose some of their effectiveness after 40 minutes in the water. No sunscreen really provides “All day protection” – it’s another marketing gimmick. All sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours – especially after swimming or excessive sweating.

Sunscreen Myth: Sunscreen is unnecessary on cloudy days and inside.

Sunscreen Facts: 80% of the suns ultraviolet rays can pass through clouds. UV rays can be reflected off, sand, water and snow, so you can even sunburn in the shade. In fact, sand reflects 25% of the sun’s rays and snow reflects 80%. Think of the “goggle tan” of snow skiers. UV rays can penetrate the car windows as well. If you spend a lot of time in the car, think about car window tinting in addition to sunscreen.

Sunscreen Myth: Using sunscreen will prevent skin cancer.

Sunscreen Facts: Studies show wearing sunscreen everyday can greatly reduce the risk for developing skin cancer. However, some researchers blame sunscreen use for encouraging people to stay in the sun longer than they should, even when they are wearing a sunscreen with SPF 15+. Sunscreen can only prevent skin cancer if they are used properly. Using sunscreen daily can also become expensive. Some less expensive alternatives are: stay out of the mid-day sun, use an umbrella at the beach and wear sun-protective clothing or sun protective hats. And completely avoid tanning beds.

Sunscreen Myth: Sunscreens are made with dangerous chemicals that do more harm than good.

Sunscreen Facts: Not True. But it is true that some of the chemicals used in sunscreen such as para-aminobenzoic (PABA), which is hardly used anymore, and oxbenzone, can be irritating. Some chemicals, such as, Avobenzone and Mexoryl SX are UVA-absorbing agents with low skin penetration. Combinations of chemical absorbing chemicals and physical blockers such as, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide the greatest “broad-spectrum” protection.

However, the greatest danger in sunscreen use is the false sense of security most people have in its protective powers. Many people still get sunburn while using sunscreen because they don’t use it as directed. If you are concerned about the chemicals used in sunscreen, there are alternatives:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Wear chemical free UPF rated clothing and hats
  • Use Sunglasses that protect from both UVA and UVB rays.

Learn more about sunscreen ingredients here:

I agree with Dr. Andrew Weill, “The threat of skin cancer if far greater than any theoretical risk posed by the chemicals sunscreen contain.”

By explaining sunscreen facts and myths we hope to clarify the misconceptions about the importance sunscreens and sun protection.

It doesn’t matter what form of sun protection you choose, just make sure you put something between your skin and the sun.

Stay alive and well with