We debunk 5 popular sunscreen myths

Make sure you know the facts before choosing the best sun protection this summer

30 December 2018 - 00:04 By Nokubonga Thusi
Everyone, no matter their skin tone or type, needs a sunscreen with a high protection factor of at least SPF 50 to effectively protect the skin from damage.
Everyone, no matter their skin tone or type, needs a sunscreen with a high protection factor of at least SPF 50 to effectively protect the skin from damage.
Image: 123RF/Lightfieldstudios

MYTH: SUNSCREEN IS ONLY FOR FAIR SKIN TONES

Sunscreen is for everyone no matter your skin tone or type. With global warming and temperatures becoming increasingly higher, it's more important than ever to protect skin from UV damage.

The melanin in darker skin tones does provide some UV protection (equivalent to SPF13) but that's not enough to protect against photo-aging, free-radical damage and cancers. Everyone needs a high protection factor of at least SPF 50 to effectively protect the skin from damage.

MYTH: ALL SUNSCREENS MAKE DARK SKIN LOOK BLUISH GREY

As anyone with a darker skin tone will tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than a grey film being left on the skin after applying sunscreen. The key is knowing the difference between sunscreen types:

  • Physical sunscreens have UV filters that don't absorb but sit on top of the skin as a whitish film to block out UV rays. These screens work as soon as the skin is exposed to sun.
  • Chemical sunscreens do not cause a residue on the skin and work by absorbing deep into the skin to block UV rays from penetrating at a dermis level.

MYTH: CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS WORK IMMEDIATELY

Contrary to popular belief, chemical sunscreens do not work immediately but take at least 30 minutes to become active in the skin. The best way to ensure that you get the right amount of protection is to apply sunscreen as the last step of your skincare routine. By the time you leave the house, after putting on makeup or doing chores, it will be active and ready to fight off UV rays.

MYTH: SUNSCREEN IS ONLY WORN TO PROTECT AGAINST UV DAMAGE FROM THE SUN

Sunscreen is primarily worn to protect from the sun's rays outside. But sunscreen should really be worn every day, even when it's overcast or you're indoors.

UVB rays can be felt on the skin, creating heat or a burning sensation and resulting in tanning or sunburn. While UVA rays can penetrate glass and windows, they don't cause heat on the skin. Instead they penetrate the skin and can disrupt the skin's DNA, causing premature ageing and cancers. 

Due to technological advancements, innovations in sunscreen now include protection against DNA-damaging infrared and blue light or HEV that is emitted from LED lights, cellphones, laptops and TVs.

MYTH: THE HIGHER THE SPF, THE MORE PROTECTED YOU ARE

Though a high SPF of 50 is the recommended standard, it may give a false sense of security. Between an SPF30 and an SPF50, there isn't much difference in terms of the percentage of UV radiation that they filter out. It is still important to reapply every two hours and use protective gear such as sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.

Most sunscreens usually protect from only UVB rays so it's important to seek a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from UVA, UVB and infrared and that contain antioxidants to bolster the skin cells from free-radical damage.


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