The topic of sunscreen use is filled with controversy and misconceptions. Here are a few of the common misconceptions provided by eDoc regarding the use of sunscreens to preventing skin damage from sunburn:
Misconception #1 – The SPF is an indication of sunscreen protection across the entire ultraviolet light spectrum. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet light—UVB, which causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer, and UVA, which causes wrinkles and deeper skin damage that can also lead to skin cancer. Most people know that SPF stands for sun protection factor. What is less well known is that this is a measure of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays only. Sunscreens that pass the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) broad spectrum test, however, will have demonstrated that they also provide UVA protection that is proportional to their UVB protection.
Misconception #2 - The higher the SPF, the better. SPF values displayed on sunscreen labels range from 2 to as high as 50 (or higher). This refers to the product’s ability to screen or block out the sun’s harmful rays. Theoretically, a sunscreen with SPF 15 will allow you to be in the sun 15 times longer than you could without sunscreen before becoming sunburned. Protection from sunburn, however, does not increase proportionally with an increased SPF number. A SPF of 2 will absorb 50% of ultraviolet radiation, an SPF of 15 absorbs 93% and an SPF of 34 absorbs 97%.
Misconception #3 – Waterproof sunscreens stay on even when swimming. There is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen. The FDA even prohibits manufacturers from labeling sunscreens as “waterproof” because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens can be labeled as being “water resistant” if they maintain their SPF rating after 40 to 80 minutes of water exposure. Most sunscreens will not maintain their SPF rating after swimming or sweating heavily for much more than an hour.
Misconception #4 – Sunscreens are so concentrated that a thin coating is all that’s necessary. Most people do not use adequate amounts of sunscreen. Studies have shown that people apply only about 25-50% of the amount required to reach the labeled SPF rating.
Misconception #5 – Vitamin A added to sunscreen is important for skin health. It’s true that Vitamin A added to sunscreen will help hydrate skin and prevent skin degradation. Data from an FDA cancer study, however, showed that Vitamin A in a synthetic form called retinyl palmitate may also speed the growth of skin tumors.
Feature photo by bryan