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7 Common Misconceptions About Sunscreen

You think you know everything about sunscreen? Odds are that what you think you know actually isn’t accurate. That’s because there’s so much information circulating on the internet and on misleading product labels of both physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s concocted. 

And while we’re sure there are many other misconceptions about sunscreen, we thought it important to break down the most important ones so that you can choose the best face/body sunscreen and stay protected the right way. Here are the most common myths about sunscreen that you really should not believe:

Myth #1: Get the highest SPF for day-long protection

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and the number listed next to it refers to how long it will take for your face and body to burn and stay protected from UVA, UVA, and blue light rays. 

In theory, one would think that the higher the number, the lower the chances of sunburn and the longer the protection. So why is it that if you ask your dermatologist, they’ll most likely tell you to choose a sunscreen with an SPF between 30 and 50? 

Sunscreen, be it mineral or chemical sunscreen, with an SPF number higher than 50 actually does two things that you should be concerned about: 

  • It makes you more likely not to reapply often. If the SPF is high, then you should be protected for longer, right? Wrong. SPF numbers refer to how long it will take before your skin starts to burn from UVB rays over a period of two hours. Not all day. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours for foolproof sun protection.

  • SPF 50+ sunscreen is packed with active ingredients, making it less effective for UV protection. In fact, it can lead to irritation and allergic reactions. 

Bottom line: Purchase a mineral sunscreen with an SPF 30 and reapply every two hours. 

Myth #2:
Sunscreen isn’t necessary on cloudy days or indoors

Clouds aren’t natural sun blockers. That means that just because you can’t feel the sting of the sun hitting the surface of your skin, doesn’t mean that your skin is safer from UVA and UVB rays.  

The Skin Cancer Foundation argues that clouds filter less than 25% of dangerous UV rays. That’s why it’s imperative that you wear a mineral sunscreen every day to keep your skin protected from UVA and UVB rays. 

Additionally, UVA rays can penetrate through windows even if you’re indoors. So while you may not need to apply a lot of sunscreen, or sunscreen with a high SPF, if you stay indoors, you’re still going to want to use sunscreen for that added layer of UVA protection. 

Myth #3: Sunburns are unlikely if you’re in the water

Water is, by definition, a reflective surface. That means that when UV rays hit the surface of the water, they are reflected back out onto the areas of your body that aren’t underwater. 

In most cases, the reflected rays hit your skin with stronger intensity, actually increasing your chances of sunburn. 

Start getting used to wearing broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen before going into the water to put your mind at ease and enjoy swimming the safe way. 

Myth #4: Putting sunscreen on once is enough. 

This is probably one of the most dangerous misconceptions about sunscreen

When you put sunscreen on, the ingredients it's made of stat to break down on your skin. The longer you stay in the sun, the more sunscreen will break down and expose your face and body once again to sun damage. 

Solution: You should reapply sunscreen every two hours to make sure you stay protected all day long and don’t have to worry about your sunscreen fading. For that reason, we recommend a mineral sunscreen made from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It’s reef-safe, non-chemical, and will complement your clean skincare collection seamlessly. 

Myth #5: You’re safe from skin cancer if you wear sunscreen and cover up parts of the body that don’t have any. 

Yes, it’s true that you’re less likely to develop skin cancer if you wear sunscreen regularly. But you should also understand that sunscreen isn’t guaranteed protection from cancer. 

UVA and UVB rays are everywhere, and while sunscreen can slow down your skin absorption of them, it can’t fully protect you from them. 

That’s why it’s so important to wear sunscreen regularly. And if you have sensitive skin, you should use a mineral sunscreen made from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to safely keep rays out. 

Myth #6:
Chemical sunscreen takes longer to protect your skin than mineral sunscreen.

The main difference between chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen is how they protect you from UV radiation. Chemical sunscreen absorbs the rays and converts them into heat, while mineral sunscreen reflects them away from your skin. 

To do so, each sunscreen functions differently. Chemical sunscreen seeps into your skin while mineral sunscreen acts as a physical barrier. 

That being said, both protect your skin from UV rays the moment you’ve put them on your face and body

Myth #7: Sunscreen is the same for everyone. 

Wouldn’t that make life easier? Saying that sunscreen is the same for everyone is like saying that everyone should wear the same foundation or cologne. 

In other words, sunscreen does not affect the skin the same way for everyone. Skin-sensitive people should, by default, go for a mineral sunscreen made from titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. And while other chemicals sunscreens — made using avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and oxybenzone — are suitable for most other skin types, their irritating and inflammatory effects vary from person to person. 

The best solution is to opt for a non-toxic sunscreen by trying out what works best for you. 

The takeaway…

Don’t believe everything you read, see on TV or hear by word of mouth. The stakes of regular sunscreen use are too high to look the other way. 

Remember, if you ever have any doubt about which the best face/body sunscreen to use, how often you should apply it, a prospective side effect, or simply best practices, always go to your dermatologist or medically-backed brand for accurate information. 

Next Up: Sunscreen 101: Everything You Need to Know