Summer is in full swing! The sun is higher, hotter, and bound to bring on a surge of UV rays. More and more activities also shift to the outdoors. While Vitamin D is a good thing, too much leads to cellular damage in the deeper layers of your epidermis. In fact, according to the University of Berkeley, we only need 15 minutes in the sun to absorb the necessary amount of Vitamin D. Just 15 minutes satisfies our daily needs! Any more than that may lead to long term damage without proper steps to protect ourselves.
So go to the store and snatch the first bottle of sunscreen off the shelf with the highest SPF, right? Wrong! Read on to sort through the many myths surrounding SPF and sunscreen options to ensure you get the best protection for you and your loved ones.
MYTH: The higher the SPF, the better the protection.
You rummage through your cabinets and find a sunscreen marked “SPF 100”. The squeeze bottle beside it is labeled as “SPF 30.” This means you should grab the SPF 100, right? Not exactly.
According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD), people who chose to lather up in 100 SPF did report fewer sunburns. However, those who chose aerosol sprays or non-certified water-resistant lotions showed less protection than those covered in lower SPF full-coverage lotions. Evaluate the factors that make a sunscreen effective, such as application and water/sweat resistance. Then, add in your SPF. Now, you’ve got an equation for the perfect amount of protection.
MYTH: If my sunscreen says “Waterproof”, I don’t have to reapply after getting in the water.
If you know you will be spending a day in the water, be sure to snag sunscreen that is marked “water-resistant.” Steer clear of those labeled “waterproof”. Why? The FDA confirms “There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen”. In fact, as soon as any application on the upper layer of your skin becomes wet, be ready to reapply within the hour.
The FDA claims, “All bottles are required to state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes after swimming or sweating, and all sunscreens must provide directions on when to reapply.” So be sure to read your bottle’s instructions after you take a refreshing dip in the deep end.
MYTH: Higher SPF means less Vitamin D absorption.
Taking a 15-minute walk during lunch? Chances are you’ve reached your Vitamin D quota for the day. Absorbing vitamin D through sunlight is one of the most wonderful feelings. It increases your natural serotonin level as well as activates your endorphins. But it’s not the only way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Many different kinds of fish and vegetables can also provide your daily dose of this sought after vitamin.
After 15 minutes of sun exposure within a day, however, your body stops absorbing and producing vitamin D. So more time than that in the sun, with or without SPF protection, won’t increase your body’s ability to absorb vitamin D through sunlight. And remember, your body has quite a bit of surface area for the sun to reach, so even if you have 90% of your body coated in sunscreen lotion or heavy clothes, that other 10% will still be catching those rays and accumulating vitamin D.
MYTH: SPF is the most important factor when purchasing sunscreen.
While it may seem superfluous to look beyond the SPF number when choosing your block of choice, remember that many different factors will decide its effectiveness. Is it water-resistant? Is it being applied as an aerosol or lotion? Does it contain chemicals or minerals? Is it “broad spectrum”?
Like knowing what is in your food and how you prepare it, so is the importance of knowing what is in your sunscreen and how you apply it. Look at the labels to ensure it will guarantee you the protection you are seeking.
MYTH: A base tan prevents me from burning more later.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a tan is nothing more than a tell-tale sign that skin damage has already begun. As soon as our skin absorbs an overwhelming amount of UV rays, it begins to break down on the cellular level and produce more melanin to prevent even further damage. This breakdown will help you achieve that temporary bronze look but lead to permanent skin damage down the road such as fine lines and wrinkles.
So while the base tan may seem to help you from getting “burnt” later, just remember- your skin has already been damaged, and more sun exposure on top of these hurting cells will only cause greater damage, leading to a more intense burn if you neglect your sunscreen applications.
MYTH: Sunscreen won’t protect you from melanoma.
While it is true that melanoma can pop-up unexpectedly due to other factors, the main culprit of melanoma is overexposure to the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation confirms that 86% of all skin cancers are caused by overexposure to the sun. Much like the correlation of smoking cigarettes to lung cancer, sun exposure is the leading cause of Melanoma in humans.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, rare cases have occurred where patients developed skin cancer due to XRay or chemical exposure. But the cause of cancer (UVA rays) can be prevented by using broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapplication throughout the day. The Skin Cancer Foundation also states, “Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.” So lather up and protect that skin you’re in!
MYTH: All SPF is the same
If someone told you that sugar-free vanilla ice cream and a hefty scoop of Fudge Ripple from Ben and Jerry’s tastes the same, you’d be fast to call their bluff! Much like our favorite sweet summer treat, all SPF’s are not created equal. SPF can protect against UVA and UVB rays. But unless your bottle specifically states “broad spectrum”, don’t be surprised if you come home a little more toasty than your friends.
UVB rays and UVA rays are shining down on your precious skin while you are out in the sun. As both of these are detrimental to our health in many ways, be sure to be mindful of your sunblock labels and find a sunscreen that offers “Broad Spectrum” coverage to block both of those bad boys.
Being out in the sun is one of our favorite summertime hobbies. Whether we are hiking the trails or playing by the pool, pick the best sun protection you can. Your skin will most surely thank you in the long run!
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