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The Burning Truth Behind Sunscreen: 5 Common Myths Exposed

June 06, 2016

Angela Gibson, PharmD
Director of Pharmacy

Myth 1: All sunscreens are created equal.

Fact: All sunscreens are labeled with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF indicates the amount of time a person can stay in the sun without burning. For example: If a person can normally be in the sun for one hour before burning, a SPF of 6 would allow that person to stay out for six hours. The higher the SPF the more protection the sunscreen provides and it is recommended to use a SPF of 30. SPF’s greater than 30 do not offer any more protection and generally contain more harsh chemicals. UV rays actually have two harmful components; 95% is composed of UVA (photo aging/cancer causing) and 5% is UVB (sunburn causing). Traditional sunscreens only offer protection from UVB so be sure to use a “Broad Spectrum” product that will cover both.

Myth 2: High SPF sunscreens provide “all day protection”.

Fact: All sunscreens should be reapplied to exposed areas of the body using a generous amount (two tablespoons for the average adult) of sunscreen every 2 hours. Sunscreens labeled “water resistant” or “waterproof” will actually lose their effectiveness much quicker and should be applied every 40 minutes.

Myth 3: I don’t need to use sunscreen today because the sun isn’t even out.

Fact: 80% of UV rays pass through clouds, so even on those overcast days it is important to remember your sunscreen. Also, UV rays can also penetrate car windows so consider using sunscreen on long road trips or if your job requires lots of driving. Also keep in mind that the sun is the most powerful between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Myth 4: I never get sunburned so I don’t really need sunscreen.

Fact: UV rays can cause the same amount of damage to the skin of a person with a dark complexion as it does to someone with fair skin. Although ethnically dark skin is less likely to burn and has lower rates of skin cancers sunscreen is still a good idea. It is also important to remember that a “base tan”is definitely not a substitute for sunscreen.

Myth 5: Skin cancer is not very common and not something I really have to worry about.

Fact: The American Cancer Society estimates that one out of five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. It is also estimated that over 76,000 Americans in 2016 will be diagnosed with melanoma. Melanoma is recognized as the 
worst form of skin cancer and responsible for around 10,000 deaths annually in the USA. In fact, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults today.

Remember: Perform self-examination of entire body once monthly in addition to yearly exam by a doctor. For me information on how to perform skin self-exams click here.  “Skin Cancer: If You Can Spot It You Can Stop It"

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