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Debunking Common Skincare Myths

Unmasking the Truth: Debunking Common Skincare Myths with Elise Barnett, M.D.

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We are constantly bombarded with messaging on skincare dos and don’ts though the trustworthiness of this information is hit or miss. As a board- certified dermatologist, I’d like to debunk some common myths and set the record straight.

Myth #1. “I don’t need sunscreen daily because I work indoors.” This is a common myth that I hear frequently from
patients. Some believe that if they are not outside seeking the sun, then sunscreen is unnecessary. Studies have shown that even momentary sun exposure (for example, walking from your car to your office building, checking your mail, traveling in your car) has a cumulative effect. These little bits of sun exposure add up to one hour per week—the equivalent of baking in the sun for a full hour. To combat the cumulative sun damage incidental sun exposure causes, I recommend a light daily sunscreen of at least an SPF 30 on the face and neck. This should be worn rain or shine, 365 days of the year.

Myth #2. Getting a “base tan” will prevent me from burning. Tanning at all, especially in a tanning bed, causes damage to the skin. Tanning beds emit UVA rays, which penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVB rays which are found in abundance in natural sunlight. UVA rays emitted from tanning beds damage collagen and accelerate wrinkling, creating an eventual “leather bag” appearance to the skin. UVA rays also increase one’s risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. UVB rays found in sunlight contribute to sunburn, but low levels of UVB over time do cause “hardening” of the skin or thickening of the skin’s very top layer, making it less susceptible to acute and obvious burns. UVA rays emitted by tanning beds do not contribute to hardening of the skin, so they create no physiological burn protection.

Myth #3. The higher SPF I use, the more protected I am from sunburn. While this “myth” does hold some truth, sun protection does not go up significantly after about SPF 30.A sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 provides 97% UV protection. SPF 40 provides 97.5% protection and sunscreen with an SPF rating of 50 provides 98% UV protection. What matters most is the amount of sunscreen applied and the frequency of reapplication. A person should apply 2 ounces (the amount in a shot glass) of sunscreen to cover the parts of the body not covered by a swimsuit. Reapplication is key! Reapplying sunscreen every one and a half hours or more frequently after getting wet or sweating will help keep you protected in the sun.

If you have questions about skincare myths or any other skincare concerns, let us know how we can help!

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