You only need to wear sunscreen if you’re planning on spending the full day in the sun, right? Wrong. Even if it’s overcast, the sun’s UV rays can still find you. After all, clouds are nothing more than water vapor – they don’t provide the same kind of protection as a layer of clothing or sunscreen. Not only can you still get sunburned on a cloudy day, but you’re still at risk for skin damage that can lead to cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and around the world. By the time you hit 70, you have a 1-in-5 chance of developing skin cancer. What’s worse, having 5 or more serious sunburns in your life doubles your risk for melanoma. Skin cancer is nothing to joke about but, as serious as it is, it’s actually fairly easy to prevent. All you need is a healthy habit of wearing sunscreen.
Unfortunately, many people fall prey to myths and misconceptions about sunscreen which prevents them from protecting their skin properly. Here’s what you need to know about SPF.
Myth #1: Applying SPF in the morning protects you all day.
One of the simplest yet most beneficial things you can do for your skin is apply sunscreen every day before you leave the house. That being said, you shouldn’t assume that your morning application of SPF is enough to protect you all day long. In reality, sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time, and it starts to break down in the light. Ideally, you should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, but if you’re not in direct sunlight, you may be able to stretch it to 4 hours.
Myth #2: Most sunscreen is waterproof.
Even if a bottle of sunscreen says it’s waterproof, it isn’t. There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. Even the strongest sunscreen is only water-resistant at best and only for 40 to 80 minutes. In addition to reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours, you should reapply after you sweat, bathe, or swim. Refer to the application instructions on the bottle to determine how long a given product lasts in the water.
Myth #3: The SPF in your moisturizer or makeup is enough.
Choosing a daily moisturizer with SPF can give your skin a boost of UV protection but, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t enough to get you through the day. People tend to underestimate the amount of sunscreen you need to cover your body and dermatologists recommend a minimum of SPF 30.
To cover your entire body, you’d need about 1 ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) or, for your face and neck, you’d need about a teaspoon. You’re probably not using a full teaspoon of moisturizer every day, so it’s unlikely you’re getting enough UV protection from your moisturizer or makeup alone. It’s better than nothing, but your skin really needs something more.
Myth #4: You only need to wear sunscreen in the summer.
Many people mistakenly believe that sunscreen is only necessary in the summer when, in fact, you need it all year round. To understand why, it helps to know the difference between UVA and UVB rays. UVA light has a longer wavelength than UVB which enables it to penetrate into the dermis, the thickest layer of skin. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths, so they typically only affect the top layer of skin, but that’s where you tend to get sunburned. Both UVA and UVB rays can play a role in developing skin cancer.
While you’re more likely to spend time outdoors in the summer, your risk for UV exposure is the same at any time of year. In fact, UV exposure can be worse during the winter because snow and ice reflect up to 90% of UV rays. Even when it’s cloudy, UV rays can still reach your skin and cause damage.
Myth #5: Darker skin tones don’t need to wear SPF.
The simple truth is everyone needs SPF. Even if you have a darker skin tone and you don’t tend to sunburn, your skin can still be affected by UV rays. Wearing just SPF 15 on a daily basis can reduce your risk for squamous cell carcinoma by as much as 40% and your risk for melanoma by 50%. In addition to protecting you against skin cancer, wearing sunscreen can hep prevent the visible signs of premature aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
Myth #6: You don’t need to reapply high SPF as often as low SPF.
While higher SPF sunscreen offers greater protection against the sun’s UV rays, it doesn’t make the product last longer. The term SPF refers to the product’s “sun protection factor” or the degree of protection it offers against UV rays. An SPF 30 sunscreen blocks about 97% of the sun’s UV rays while SPF 50 blocks up to 98%. Regardless what SPF you choose, however, you still need to reapply after 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
Myth #7: Sunscreen doesn’t expire.
Many people mistakenly assume that sunscreen never expires. In reality, the active ingredients in sunscreen can break down over time much like the ingredients in your favorite skincare products. Check the label for a best-by date or, if the product doesn’t have one, assume the product is good for up to three years after the date you bought it. If you’re ready to stock up on new sunscreen for the summer, give Yon-Ka’s SPF 50 high-protection sunscreen a try.
By now you should understand the dangers associated with unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays, but what does that mean for your daily recommended dose of vitamin D? Theoretically, sunscreen blocks the sun’s UV rays from penetrating your skin which means, if you wear sunscreen all the time, you’ll prevent your body from getting the vitamin D it needs.
Remember, however, that sunlight can still penetrate certain types of clothing and even SPF 50 only blocks 98% of the sun’s UV rays. Dermatologists suggest just 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure is enough to meet your daily needs for vitamin D.