You may not always like slathering yourself in sunscreen but it’s
crucial for protecting your skin against the sun’s damaging rays
that cause wrinkles, sun spots and skin cancer.
You may know the basic facts about sunscreen but you may have questions
about when you need to apply it, how much to use, and what kind of sunscreen
you should buy.
Victoria Wang, MD , a dermatologist at
Mission Heritage Medical Group , sets the record straight.
Myth #1: When it’s cloudy, you don’t need to wear sunscreen.
Even in the winter, I still encourage sunscreen use in my patients.Why?
Even with cloud cover, UVB rays – which cause skin damage, sun burns
and skin cancer pass through the clouds.
Myth #2: Makeup with SPF will protect me from the sun.
Makeup these days often includes SPF, which is great. But most have SPF
15. A sunscreen with SPF 30is best. If you’re wearing makeup and
sunscreen, put your sunscreen on first.
Myth #3: The best sunscreen is the one with the highest SPF.
I have many patients who tell me they use SPF 100 or higher. The reality
is that the added benefit from higher SPF actually plateaus as you get
higher in number. SPF 15 filters 94 percent of UVB rays. SPF 30 filters
97 percent. Any higher than SPF 30 is the law of diminishing returns.
Myth #4: The sun is necessary for Vitamin D, so sunscreen must be dangerous.
Clearly Vitamin D is important, but getting it from the sun is only one
of the ways to meet daily Vitamin D requirements. Because sunscreen decreases
skin cancer risk, I recommend a daily dose of 1000IU of Vitamin D3 from
diet or supplements especially if you’re vigilant about sunscreen,
live in certain areas of the country, or are obese, elderly, housebound
or photosensitive. Given the benefits of sunscreen, it’s best to
get your Vitamin D food or supplements.
Myth #5: You only need to put on sunscreen once if you’re swimming.
There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. In fact, one of the new
FDA regulations is that sunscreen makers can no longer label their sunscreen
as “waterproof.” Sunscreens can now be labeled “water-resistant”
instead. Sunscreen does wash off in the pool and even with sweat. I recommend
reapplication after swimming, sweating, toweling off and every two hours.
Myth #6: The best way to apply sunscreen is to apply it every morning.
Again, I would emphasize reapplication. Sunscreen wears off after only
two hours. So if you’re putting it on before work, you’re
not protected on the way as you leave for lunch or on your drive home.
Myth#7: Sunscreen is toxic.
It is true that several chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the bloodstream
and found in the urine. There are no studies that show there are negative
effects from this, though.. But if you’re concerned, stick with
the physical blockers: zinc and titanium.
Myth #8: Sunscreen causes skin cancer.
This myth started with a few studies that showed that people who wore sunscreen
had a false sense of security, stayed out longer in the sun, and had increased
skin cancer rates. Also some patients use sunscreen as tanning aids. These
patients are at higher risk for skin cancer. Another explanation is that
melanoma can be inherited and is not always prevented with sunscreen use.
Sunscreen use is important all year round. Other ways to avoid UV damage
include covering up with broad-rim hats, sunglasses, long sleeves, and
pants. Also, be sure to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and find
shade whenever you can.
For more information about Dr. Wang, click
here, for more information about Mission Heritage Medical Group,
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.