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Five Sunscreen Myths

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Consider These Five Sunscreen Myths Debunked

By now, you’re probably well-versed in the basics of sunscreen: wear it daily, choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours. But even the most skin-savvy people can come across misinformation about sunscreen that leaves them vulnerable to sun damage, premature aging, and skin cancer.

To clear up these misconceptions, we’ve come up with a list of five sunscreen myths you can consider debunked.

Myth #1: “Spray sunscreens are reliable.”

False.  Spray sunscreens contain propellants (pressurized gases) which are liquid inside the can.  A standard aerosol sunscreen can contain as much as 60% propellant, and because a sunscreen’s SPF is measured before propellants are added, you are ultimately left with less product – and less protection from the sun.  Some of the propellant comes out of the can and lands on your skin as a liquid, so it is difficult to tell what is sunscreen and what is chemical propellant.  Propellants can cause irritation to the skin and should not be sprayed directly on the face.  Because of these problems, Dr. Barnett recommends using caution when applying spray sunscreens.

Myth #2: “I don’t have to wear sunscreen if I spend most of the day inside.”

False.  If you plan to spend the entire day inside, away from any windows, without stepping outside even for a minute, then you can skip the sunscreen. But if your house is filled with natural light or you have a commute in the car, then you should still apply sunscreen to your exposed skin. There are two types of ultraviolet light that damage your skin and increase your skin cancer risk: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). Window glass blocks UVB rays but not UVA rays. In fact, studies have shown that chronic exposure to UVA rays through windows may accelerate skin aging by five to seven years and can increase the risk of skin cancer. Small amounts of sun exposure throughout the day add up to about one hour per week in the sun.

Myth #3: “I have dark skin, so I don’t need to wear sunscreen.”

False. Dark skin is just as susceptible to sun damage – it’s just harder to see. Skin cells respond to UV rays by releasing pigment in the form of a tan or a sunburn. These outcomes might be harder to spot on darker skin tones, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Regardless of your skin tone, apply sunscreen daily.

Myth #4: “My sunscreen is SPF 70, so I don’t need to reapply as often.”

False. Regardless of the number on your sunscreen bottle, SPF only works for about two hours.  The SPF number refers to how much protection you’re getting from UV rays, not how long the SPF lasts. Even if you opt for an SPF 100+ sunscreen and apply it exactly as directed (something that’s surprisingly hard to do), sun exposure, your environment, sweat, and even clothing will eventually wear away at the sunscreen, which is why it’s best to reapply often.

Myth #5: “As long as I don’t burn, it’s healthy to get a little color.”

Really false! There is no such thing as a safe “base tan” or a “healthy tan.” UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen, and unprotected exposure to these rays significantly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Tanning, like a sunburn, is caused by permanent DNA damage to the skin. The immune system will attempt to repair the damage done to UV-exposed skin cells, but the repairs are never perfect. Over time, repeated prolonged UV ray exposure can cause mutations in the affected skin cells, leading to premature aging or skin cancer.

Dr. Barnett uses cutting-edge laser treatments to reduce and reverse the effects of sun damage. These treatments require little to no downtime, so you can get back out there sooner (with sunscreen, of course). Schedule an appointment at the Atlanta Skin Wellness Center by calling (404) 446-4840.

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