When it comes to sun protection there seems to be more misinformation floating around than genuine factual knowledge. These myths perpetuate, and frequently sound very convincing, leading many people to believe they know how to protect themselves when, in actuality, they are following very poor advice.
Here are the top 7 sun protection myths we hear all the time, and why you need to forget about them…
#1 The Chemicals In Sunscreen Cause Cancer
This is a persistent rumour you’ve likely heard repeatedly. The media is particularly frenzied about suggesting oxybenzone, a synthesised form of estrogen, and retinyl palmitate, a type of vitamin A the skin stores, can lead to cancer.
In reality, there is no evidence that approved brands can cause cancer. Meanwhile, the opposite is very much true: not wearing any sunscreen is proven to significantly increase the chances of getting cancer.
#2 I Won’t Be Outside Long, So I Won’t Get Burnt
It’s easy to think sunscreen isn’t needed because you’re only going to be nipping to the shop, taking a brief stroll, or sitting outside for a short while. While it’s true that the less time you’re outside the less likely you are to burn, UVA exposure accumulates over time.
That 15-minute walk might not be enough to cause a sunburn, but it’s all UV exposure your skin is absorbing. Over time it builds up, and it is the build-up that leads to skin damage and premature ageing.
#3 You Can’t Burn On Cloudy Or Cold Days
Similarly, if it’s a cloudy or cold day it’s natural to think there’s no risk of sunburn. If you’ve ever experienced ‘wind burn’, an inexplicable sunburn-like phenomenon that happened on a cool and blustery day, you’re already aware that you don’t need to be squinting at the brilliant sunshine or struggling to stay cool for UV to affect you.
Truthfully, there’s no such thing as ‘wind burn’ it’s all UV from the sun!
The levels of UVB might not be so high on cloudy days but UVA is present throughout the year at fairly consistent levels. It is the UVA that leads to premature ageing of the skin through fine lines, loss of elasticity and discolouration.
#4 Skin Cancer Is For Sunbathers
Another popular myth is that skin cancer only affects people who actively bathe in sunshine, visit tanning booths and are a little obsessive about catching some rays and topping up their tan.
But just as a cool and cloudy day still contains UV rays, you are exposed to the same rays whether you’re lounging around on a beach, walking the dog, or doing the gardening.
#5 You Don’t Need Sunscreen If You Use Cosmetics With SPF
A lot of moisturisers and foundations now contain sunscreen, which is great as it offers some UV protection. However, it’s not enough for a full day, so even if your cosmetics have the equivalent of SPF30, that protection won’t last more than a couple of hours.
More than that, the amount of the product you would need to apply to get this level of protection is simply unrealistic in a lot of cases.
#6 Skin Protection Is A Waste Of Time If You’ve Already Had Lots Of Sunburn
Protecting yourself from the sun can feel a little pointless if you’ve already experienced a lot of sunburns, particularly as a child. While there’s a much higher risk of melanoma if you were exposed in your first ten years, continuing to expose your skin to UV will only make it worse.
Your skin is basically a memory bank that stores every encounter you have with UV rays – no matter how much exposure you’ve had in the past, avoiding more in the future is always vital!
#7 You Don’t Need Sun Protection If You Tan
This is another big one! If your skin never burns but simply goes a beautiful golden brown, making you the envy of your friends, it’s easy to think you’re safe.
After all, you’re not in pain or discomfort, and the tan itself is protecting you, right?
Well, not exactly. Your skin darkens because it is being damaged by the sun.
The fact it goes tanned rather than red and sore means it’s not uncomfortable for you, but your skin is still damaged.
It darkens to defend itself from the sun, but having a tan isn’t actually a defence against further damage, only an indication of existing damage.
This same logic holds true for base tans, already having a tan doesn’t protect you from further damage. Studies have found a base tan gives roughly the equivalent of SPF2 but the protection from UVA rays was virtually non-existent.
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