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Don’t Get Burned by Common Sun Care Myths

Last updated: July 19, 2023

Hold on to your beach hats, folks! It’s time to address a glaring nationwide issue: sun care knowledge.

The American Academy of Dermatology recently conducted a survey of 1,000 adults on the basics of skin cancer, tanning, and sun protection. The results are in, and a staggering one-third flunked the test.

To help close the gaps in our skin safety know-how, let’s turn up the heat on 6 common misconceptions.

Myth #1: Tanning is harmless as long as you don’t burn.

Reality: Any change in the color of your skin after exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is a sign of injury. But what if the UV rays come from a tanning bed instead of the sun? They can still cause lasting skin damage.

When it comes to sun safety, we’ve got your back … and face, and arms, and legs! Check out the UV radiation guide to learn more about these invisible rays and what they mean for your health.

Myth #2: Having a “base tan” lowers the risk of getting skin cancer.

Reality: Nope. A base tan only provides an SPF of about 2 to 4 — barely a shadow of protection. If you want the look of a tan without the cancer risk (and early wrinkles), consider self-tanner instead. Just remember that it doesn’t keep you safe from the sun.

Myth #3: I have darker skin, so I don’t need sunscreen.

Reality: It’s true that darker skin naturally has more melanin, which does provide some protection. But that doesn’t make you invincible to harmful UV rays. No matter your complexion, make sure to liberally apply sunscreen as part of your sun-safety routine.

Follow these skin cancer prevention tips to keep your skin safe, healthy, and ready to outshine the sun.

Myth #4: SPF 30 protects you for 30 minutes.

Reality: If only it were that simple! However, SPF is actually based on the amount — not length — of sun exposure. While SPF 15 sunscreen is the lowest number allowed by the Food & Drug Administration, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using at least SPF 30, which blocks 97% of UVB rays.

Myth #5: Sunscreens are packed with allergens.

Reality: Allergic reactions are few and far between. If you have sensitive skin, don’t shy away from sunscreen. Instead, look for labels with physical blockers, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These sunscreens are less likely to cause allergic reactions than chemical ones. Also, experiment with lotions, creams, gels, ointments, sticks, and sprays to find your perfect sun protection.

Myth #6: High-SPF sunscreens can be applied less often.

Reality: Not true. Regardless of SPF, you should reapply any sunscreen every two hours when outdoors, or more often if you’re sweating or swimming. Even water-resistant sunscreens only hold up for 40 to 80 minutes in the water. Check the product label for specifics.

Don’t forget: Little ones need protection from sizzling sun rays, too. Learn the first aid rules of sunburn — and how to prevent burns from happening in the first place.

Now that you’ve separated the myths from the facts, get out and enjoy the sunshine — safely. If you’re spending time outdoors, take a few moments throughout the day to protect yourself and your loved ones from the long-term damage and risks of getting sunburned.

Experiencing a summer ailment?

Tags: skin cancer SPF Sunscreen myths sunscreen recommendations

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