Those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere are now experiencing the busy and fun-filled season of warm weather, plenty of sunshine and the strong urge to bare all and be 100% natural (clothes-free) outdoors. Despite the urge, there are many among us who cling to many of the misinformation and misunderstanding regarding the benefits and protection of sunscreen. This post is an effort to dispel those myths with facts.
UVA Versus UVB Sunlight
Discrediting sunscreen mythology necessitates a basic understanding of both UVA and UVB light, They are both forms of ultraviolet light that affects human skin after exposure.
UVA light has a longer wave that penetrates into the thickest layers of skin, named the dermis. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays leads to skin aging, wrinkles and a suppressed (weakened) immune system.
UVB sunrays have a much shorter wave and are most responsible for sunburn, which is the burning or inflammation of the top layers of skin. UVB rays can play a key role in the development of skin cancers and frequent sunburns can cause permanent skin damage over time.
Sunscreen Is Not Always Necessary
Many people believe that sunscreen is only necessary when their entire body is exposed to sunlight, such as when they’re at the pool or swimming in a lake or the ocean. Ultraviolet light is harmful to exposed skin, no matter how much skin is exposed to sunlight.
Some people also incorrectly believe that sunscreen is not necessary on cloudy or overcast days because the sunlight does not feel as intense or as strong as usual. The fact remains that anytime the body receives sunlight, it is exposed to UV rays, no matter the amount of cloud covering.
Faces and lower arms are common areas of the skin that are exposed throughout the day, which only increases their risk of sun damage. It is best to cover all exposed skin areas with sunscreen and consider other protective measures, such as wearing a hat.
Sunscreen Will Prevent The Body From Absorbing Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for human health and the body manufactures it easily and naturally through exposure to UV rays. Sunscreen blocks or dilutes UV rays. In theory, the use of sunscreen 100% of the time would prevent a person from getting the essential and proper levels of vitamin D.
Sunlight can and does penetrate clothing and sunscreens lose their effectiveness over a period of time. It is also very likely that an individual will forget to use sunscreen every time they are in sunlight.
Most scientists and dermatologists suggest that approximately 15 – 20 minutes of sunlight exposure per day is sufficient to create the correct amount of vitamin D in the human body.
Sunscreen Causes Health Problems
This myth originates from an older research study conducted on oxybenzone, one of the active ingredients in multiple brands of sunscreen. In that study, rats exposed to oxybenzone suffered serious negative side effects. A research letter posted to Archives of Dermatology highlighted the levels of exposure reached to produce health problems in rats were extremely high.
Their calculations demonstrated that these levels were unattainable in humans, even those who use sunscreen regularly and liberally.
The researchers noted that after 40 years of oxybenzone being an ingredient in sunscreens, there are no published studies that demonstrate toxic effects in humans caused by absorbed oxybenzone.
Tanning Beds/Booths Provide A Protective Base Tan
Some people falsely believe that the use of commercial tanning beds or booths and getting a quick skin tan before summer or before exposing their bodies to an abundance of sun such as when on a holiday or a vacation eliminates the necessity of sunscreen.
Commercial tanning devices or salons utilize high concentrations of UVA light to darken the skin quickly. However, actual sunlight includes both UVA and UVB light.
Exposing the human body to high levels of UVA light from a tanning bed creates only a temporary tan that does minimal protection of the skin from the sun. However, it is important to remember that UVB light specifically causes both sunburn and severe skin damage.
People With Naturally Dark Skin Do Not Need Sunscreen
Some people incorrectly believe that persons with more melanin (a darker skin tone) in their skin do not need to use sunscreen. They base this fallacy on the fact that melanin acts to diffuse UVB rays and may protect against sunburns, to some extent.
Whereas people with darker skin tones are more protected from the sun, they should still use full spectrum sunscreen. UVA damage is not blocked by the melanin and can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkles.
Melanin does not protect the skin from extreme sun exposure, such as spending long days in the sunlight without sunscreen protection. People with darker skin tones are not protected from skin cancers.
Skin cancer survival rates are lowest in people with darker skin tones. This group includes African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. These results strongly indicate a need for better screening and awareness of the serious risks of skin cancers.
Makeup Alone Is Enough To Protect The Face
It is true that makeup may offer a limited amount of protection from the sun, however, it is not much and is not a sufficient replacement for a good sunscreen.
Makeup should be considered only as an additional layer of protection. It is crucial to know that it is not the only layer of protection needed.
Sunscreen Works Better Than Covering Up
It is often misunderstood that a layer of sunscreen makes the exposed body invincible to direct sunlight. Many people who wear sunscreen believe this allows them to stay protected throughout the day, no matter how much of their skin is exposed. This is a limited assumption as sunscreen protection weakens due to both water (swimming) and human perspiration (sweating if playing sports or working).
The simple truth of the matter is that covering up the skin is much better protection than sunscreen. A wide-brimmed hat and clothing provide better protection than any sunscreen.
You Cannot Tan While Wearing Sunscreen
Sunscreen works to help the human body protect itself against UVA and UVB rays, bit it does not protect the body completely. This enables to human body to still receive a suntan. This holds true even when someone applies the sunscreen multiple times throughout the day.
A suntan is the body’s natural protective response to UV light. To completely avoid at suntan, it is always best to apply sunscreen and to cover up with a wide-brimmed hat and long clothing.
All Sunscreen Is Identical
This belief is a very common misconception and is totally false. Sunscreens are absolutely not the same and do not protect equally. There are a variety of ingredients in sunscreens and they offer protection from a variety of levels of sunlight exposure.
Active ingredients used in manufacturing sunscreens such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and ecamsule are frequently utilized to filter out harmful UVA and UVB rays. There is also a chemical blocker, avobenzone, that blocks out the sunlight in different methods based on the amount used.
Using a full spectrum sunscreen is important because it protects the skin against the largest and greatest range of UV light.
Another important item is the sun protection factor (SPF). The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends regularly using a sunscreen with an SPF15 or higher rating even on otherwise cloudy days.
One Application Of Sunscreen Lasts All Day
It is best to carefully read the instructions on every container (tube, bottle, etc.) before the use of the product. Many consumers incorrectly assume that the sunscreen will last all day long after just one application. Reality is an entirely different matter. Sunscreens breaks down in the sunlight and loses its effectiveness throughout the day.
People should carefully and completely reapply their layer of sunscreen every two to four hours, as recommended on the product label.
All Sunscreen Is Waterproof
Sunscreen that is specifically labeled as water-resistant or sweat-resistant or advertised or promoted as sunscreen for sports or swimming is often perceived as waterproof. This is a misconception.
No sunscreen product is completely waterproof. Resistant sunscreens may effectively reduce the effects of moisture to their product but sweat and water will always dilute the protection level needed.
People should reapply water-resistant sunscreens after water exposure, following the guidelines printed on the product label. Allow the sunscreen to be absorbed by the skin at least ten to fifteen minutes after application.
Sunscreen Effectiveness Never Expires
Sunscreen is a man-made product and it naturally expires over a period of time. The active ingredients lose their potency and using an expired container of sunscreen will not offer protection to the skin.
For Additional Information
For additional information on sunscreen use and protection, as well as other ways to reduce solar ailments, inconveniences and worse, click on the below link:
This link is to my posting here on ReNude Pride on the same topic but from an entirely different approach. In this linked posting, I delved into a much broader range and perspective.
Replacing myths with the knowledge of facts enable men to effectively and responsibly protect themselves and their bodies against the damaging and harmful rays from the sun. Sharing this information with family and friends increases their chances of enjoying a safe and successful summer and sunshine.
The variety of sunscreen products offered vary. I encourage everyone to carefully read all the application instructions for each one before purchasing. Ask for clarification of any questions.
Consult with your healthcare provider for any specifics.