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Mythbusters: Sunscreen Edition

In preparation for that long hot summer that we are going to be having, let’s set the record straight on some myths about sun protection. The fact is, a tan is the skin’s visible response to sun damage. There is also a large amount of misinformation on the web about proper sun protection. The statements below, contrary to what you have probably been told, are all myths:

Dark skin doesn’t need sunscreen/can’t get melanoma: 

Darker skin tones are less prone to skin cancer, but this myth can mean signs are ignored until there’s a lesion so far advanced that chances of successful treatment are diminished.

A base tan protects you: 

A base tan is nature’s way of producing sun protection because you’ve been irradiated. However, it doesn’t lessen your risk of skin cancer, and you’ll age your skin exponentially with constant sun tanning.

You don’t need to use sunscreen inside: 

All contact with sunlight requires protection. Any exposure, from an office or car window to walking from building to building, requires SPF.

The number on sunscreen is proportionate to the number of minutes of sun protection: 

The number has nothing to do with exposure time — it’s about the strength of protection against the sun’s harmful rays. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of how much solar energy (UV radiation) is required to sunburn protected skin relative to unprotected skin.  Here’s how to do the math — it’s simple, we swear: SPF 15 allows 1/15 of harmful UVB rays to reach the skin. The remaining 14/15 means you’re protecting against 93% of UVB radiation. So, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 prevents 98%.  

The SPF in makeup is enough: 

It’s good enough to cover you when you’re walking from your car to work. If you’re outside longer than 15 minutes, you need higher SPF and must reapply.

One application of sunscreen in the morning is enough for the whole day: 

Reapplying is just as important as the first coat. Sunscreen gets consumed once the light hits it, which means you have to reapply regularly to remain protected.

You don’t need sunscreen during off-peak hours:

The sun’s powerful rays can cause damage no matter what time it is. If you’re outside at any point for longer than 15 minutes, you need some SPF. You can still get burned at 8 am as well as after 4 pm. 

Sunscreen on your face, arms, back, and legs is enough: 

That’s a great start, but you should also apply it to the ears, nose, hands and the tops of your feet. And remember your scalp, especially if you have thinning or less hair.  

Melanoma is only caused by sun exposure:

Melanoma can strike without sun exposure, which makes regular skin checks important. Sun exposure makes the risk higher, but isn’t always the main factor.

See you at the beach this summer…if we recognize each other with all the sunscreen and extra clothing on! Oh, yeah, and our masks!