Sunscreen Myths and Facts

Reapply sunscreen when going in the water.

There’s plenty of inaccurate information about using sunscreen. So, let’s clear it up now.

We hear a lot about the importance of wearing sunscreen. It’s been drilled into our heads that without it our skin will burn, we’ll experience signs of aging and, of course, place ourselves at risk of getting skin cancer. There isn’t a dermatologist, beauty magazine or skincare TV commercial these days that doesn’t tout the importance of wearing sunscreen or other protective products. SPF products seem to come in all forms, from clothing to cosmetics. But everything we read isn’t necessarily true. Let’s break down some common sunscreen myths and get the facts straight once and for all.

Sunscreen Myth #1: People with dark skin don’t need sunscreen

No matter how dark- or light-skinned you are, sunscreen is important. Everyone’s skin is subject to burning, premature aging or developing skin cancer when left unprotected. Don’t believe for a second that if you have dark skin you can skip the sunscreen. Everyone, regardless of their skin color, should wear sunscreen on a regular basis.

Sunscreen Myth #2: You don’t need to apply sunscreen if it’s in your makeup

I used to get very excited at the idea of having my sunscreen needs covered by my makeup. Talk about being lulled into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, what I learned was the opposite. Foundations, blush and bronzing powders all seem to contain SPF these days, but it isn’t enough. Makeup with SPF is usually applied unevenly. Think about the quick dusting of blush or the little dab of foundation we often apply. It’s simply not enough coverage to offer appropriate protection. While it’s a nice, added benefit for those areas that need ample coverage, it’s very important to double-up on your protection and use a sunscreen as well. Opt for a daily moisturizer with SPF 30. You’ll get added moisture and protection in one easy step.

Sunscreen Myth #3: You don’t need to reapply “waterproof” sunscreen

The FDA guidelines for sunscreens have become more stringent over time. The newest regulations prohibit companies from using the term “waterproof” on their sunscreen products. The appropriate labeling is “water resistant.” With the term water resistant, companies must now designate whether the product is protective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes, while swimming or sweating.. You must reapply at least every two hours, and even more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating. It’s easy to forget about reapplication when you’re having fun at the beach or pool. Keep your sunscreen in a visible place so it doesn’t go unnoticed. If you just can’t seem to make it happen, set an alarm on your phone or other mobile device. My sunscreen may be tucked away in my beach bag, but my phone is never far from sight.

Sunscreen Myth #4: You only need sunscreen for certain areas of the body

If you have skin that’s exposed, it needs sunscreen. This includes your feet, ears, back, arms, legs and neck. If it’s an exposed body part, it needs protection. I’m always most concerned about my face, because I want to keep those fine lines and wrinkles at bay. But after close inspection of my body, I had a very rude awakening. My shoulders have many dark spots on them, as does my cleavage area. Even my legs are riddled with sun damage, due to my youthful sunscreen neglect in pursuit of the perfect tan. I have become obsessive about the backs of my hands and now keep sunscreen in the cup holder in my car. If it can be seen, it needs sunscreen.

Sunscreen Myth #5: Adult sunscreens are not as protective as those made for children

Sunscreens contain the same active ingredients whether they’re for kids or adults. If you’re looking at two products labeled with the same sun protection factor, whether for kids or adults, the protection is about the same. There are different types of formulations, however, and many sunscreens made for children have been developed for more sensitive skin. They can be fragrance-free, chemical-free, paraben-free and more. Also, many products for kids are tear-free to avoid any stinging of the eyes. Otherwise, the SPF number is pretty reliable.

Sunscreen Myth #6: Sunscreen has an endless summer

If you have a leftover bottle of sunscreen from the previous year, do yourself a favor and throw it away. If you’re using sunscreen every day, you won’t ever have leftover product. A good rule of thumb is to not treat your sunscreen as a seasonal product, but realize its importance year-round. Always check the expiration dates on your bottles. The dates can be found on the label or embossed on the crimped edge of a tube. Nothing lasts forever, and sunscreens will lose their effectiveness over time. Pay attention to expiration dates, and make sure you’re slathering on something that will actually protect your skin.

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