Sunscreen Myths Resolved Once And For All
Not so fast! We’re nearing the end of summer and may have to say goodbye to the beach, our swimsuits, and vacation vibes for now, but sunscreen shouldn’t be one of them. Despite the season change, that big ball of flaming heat (otherwise known as the sun) will continue to shine even on the gloomiest of fall/winter days.
The big picture: Sunscreen should still be a critical part of our beauty routines as we move into cooler months to ensure complete sun protection.
A blessing in a bottle, sunscreen—also known as sunblock—works to absorb or reflect some of the sun’s rather dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Two rays, UVA and UVB, actually hit Earth’s surface, wreaking havoc on our gorgeous skin. Got any fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tones, or pesky dark spots? UVA rays are likely to blame by passing through window glass and sinking deep into the skin. And you can thank UVB rays for those annoying sunburns. Ouch! These rays peel away at the surface of our skin, leaving behind uncomfortable sunburns and skin inflammation—not to mention the absolute worst tan lines.
According to The American Academy of Dermatology, about 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. And both UVA and UVB rays are responsible for this. Naturally, when the sun is the hottest during summer, it seems ideal to pile on sunscreen every day. After all, it’s really the safest way to keep our skin healthy and shielded from the sun. But we shouldn’t be skimping out on sunscreen as the days get colder. Although UVB rays weaken come fall, UVA rays are just as strong in December as they are in July. When used regularly as directed, sunscreen can help decrease the risk of skin cancers, prevent premature aging, and reduce the risk of overall skin damage. It’s important to remember that our skin is still prone to damage from sun exposure regardless of a noticeable burn or not.
You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers.
Wrong. There’s a difference. Sunscreens you’re probably most familiar with can help prevent sunburn (the result of UVB rays that we talked about earlier) if they’re being used correctly. However, these sunscreens lack in providing adequate protection from UVA rays. I bet you’ve seen “broad spectrum” on a bunch of labels while doing a bit of sunscreen shopping. The FDA defines this term as protection against both types of rays, but the use of this term on labels isn’t as strict. A 2016 study by the Environmental Working Group found that participants who used a poor quality broad spectrum sunscreen for two days on a tropical beach got the same UVA exposure as those visiting a tanning salon once.
Let’s first understand what the SPF number actually means. This value indicates how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden the skin when used appropriately in comparison to how long it would take without sunscreen. A good rule of thumb by skincancer.org is that SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin, while an SPF of 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through. Ideally, sunscreens with higher SPF protection and broad spectrum coverage are better suited to help reduce the risk of skin damage and sunburn. But let’s be real, we feel super secure with higher SPFs, and tend to bask in the sun’s rays a bit longer, skip out on reapplying, and feel no rush to cover up. This can lead to a lot more UV damage—pretty much defeating the purpose altogether. Recently, the FDA has limited the SPF values to 60. Word of advice? Stick to products between SPF 15 and SPF 50+, while always keeping in mind the type of activity you’ll be participating in.
Not to sound cliché, but sunscreen is for everyone under the sun. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, we produce Vitamin D—an essential hormone that supports strong bones and a healthy immune system. Eating fatty fish and seafood (like shrimp and tuna), drinking OJ, and taking vitamin D supplements are all effective ways to boost vitamin D levels, but nothing beats spending time in sunlight (after all, they don’t call it the “sunshine vitamin” for nothing).
As we all look to spend more quality time with this hot star, protection is equally important—including those with darker skin tones. This idea has been overshadowed by the popular phrase “melanin magic,” to describe how melanin (a dark brown to black pigment in people) provides a natural SPF of 13 in darker skin tones. There may be some truth to this as research confirms, but added protection from the sun’s rays is still necessary. Melanin in darker skin can only protect against some UV damage. Remember: Sunscreen just blocks the harmful UV radiation. It still lets in all the good stuff, like vitamin D from the sun.
We’ve been in an active pandemic for how many months now? Six? Seven? I lost count. Nevertheless, we’ve spent a large portion of our time indoors, whether it’s working from home, taking classes online—the list goes on. Sunscreen may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but that’s where you’re wrong. UV rays can still reach us indoors. Most windows block out UVB rays according to the American Cancer Society, but UVA rays can still penetrate through glass. So, depending on your circumstance, it may be worthwhile to apply sunscreen daily for added protection.
Face cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, repeat (daily). Recognize this familiar morning routine? Some have opted to simplify things by using moisturizer with SPF instead—a beauty routine shake up for sure. However, most of these daily moisturizers are only SPF 15, a major difference in the recommended SPF 30 or higher amount by the American Academy of Dermatology. They add some layer of protection, but it may not be enough. SPF moisturizer formula is heavily diluted with other ingredients, making it difficult to fully live up to its SPF potential. But applying a daily SPF moisturizer is better than applying none at all. Anything with SPF 30 or higher is your friend. Keep in mind to cover every inch of your face and work the product into easily missed areas (you know, your eyelids, around your eyes, and the inner corners of your eyes).
We’ve got a couple of our own favorites in mind…
Josh Rosebrook’s Nutrient Day Cream Tinted SPF 30—a luxurious multi-action day cream that’s a triple threat—a regenerating moisturizer, a broad spectrum sunscreen, and light makeup.
Earthwise Beauty’s Farizad’s Veil Sun Reflector—a moisturizing, breathable, non-pore-clogging powder with non-nano zinc oxide, a key FDA-approved sun protective ingredient.
Honey Girl Organics Protect—a compact, multi-purpose stick to protect against all elements—wind, water, pollution (and, most importantly) sun.
Sunscreen is here, and it’s here to stay. As we begin to notice a dip in temperatures, continue to wear sunscreen in the fall to help protect against harmful UV rays and skin damage from sun exposure. Although crucial, sunscreen isn’t the only, or even the best, way to protect yourself from the sun. Keep yourself covered (hats, umbrellas, and clothing are great!), find shade, grab your favorite sunnies, and try to avoid midday sun.
PWB Marketing Intern & Content Writer
A versatile writer, Juzanne covers beauty, lifestyle, entertainment and fashion news—delivering timely pieces that inform, entertain, mirror current trends and spark social conversations. Find more of her work here.