Before we tackle a few myths about sunscreens, let’s review a little about the sun, sunscreens, and why we use them.
Let’s start with the sun.
Along with life giving light and heat, the sun also puts out ultraviolet (UV) light, which is one of the major components of sunlight. There are beneficial effects of UV but it also physically damages skin components and DNA. This damage causes skin structures to skin lose elasticity. The collagen begins to thin out and wrinkles develop. Age spots begin to develop on the skin. All of this helps make your skin look older. The most important cause of aging skin is sun exposure to the sun’s UV light. Protecting your skin from the sun helps you look younger as you age.
In addition, UV light can damage DNA and cause precancerous changes which can lead to skin cancers. Another benefit of protecting from UV is to help prevent skin cancer, especially the dangerous melanoma type.
Now on to some of the myths we hear all the time.
Myth #5: “I use SPF 15, that is plenty”
First, SPF is strictly a measure of protection from UVB. Most SPF 15 products have no protection from UVA, which ages your skin.
In addition, sunscreens will break down over time, so that SPF 15 product you put on your skin rapidly becomes an SPF 10 and then an SPF 8 until it is gone.
Finally, an SPF 15 only blocks out 93% of the UV light. An SPF 45 product blocks out 97%. If your goal over time is to protect your skin from as much UV light as possible, it is much better to use an SPF 45 product or higher, than an SPF 15 product.
Myth #4 “I’m indoors all the time.”
UVA light easily goes through glass. Unless there are no windows, you are receiving UV light.
Yes, it is true that you will get less than if you were outside but if you are not wearing sunscreen and near a window, your skin is being damaged. In addition, just going outside and getting in a car exposes you to UV light, as does driving or riding in a car.
In San Antonio, unless you live in windowless building and never go outside, you are getting a significant amount of UV light over time. Better to use sunscreens and truly protect yourself.
Myth 3. “I have sunscreen in my makeup.”
Sunscreens in makeup are generally lower quality chemical sunscreens that provide just a little sun protection. They are not really there to protect your skin.
They are there to allow the manufacturer to claim that they have an SPF sunscreen. A good sunscreen is a poor makeup. You are much better off putting on a good sunscreen and then applying makeup over it.
Myth 2. “I tanned so much when I was young; it is too late now.”
It is difficult to undo the damage of the past. But you can prevent future damage through proper sun protection.
The effects of sun damage is cumulative. What has been done has been done but starting now to prevent more damage will have a beneficial effect. If you start protecting your skin today, in ten years you will look much better than if you did not stop.
Myth 1. “Tans are healthy; as long as I don’t burn I am OK.”
Tans are a sign of damaged skin. Though you may not have burned when you acquire the tan, you have damaged your skin and you have increased your risk of cancer and aging. There is no safe UV light. Tanning booths, with their “safe” UV light, actually expose you to UV light that will cause aging effects over time.