Suncream is like eating healthily – we probably should be doing it more often than we currently are. Though we know it’s good for us, that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. However sun exposure is responsible for thousands of cases of skin cancer each year and also causes harsh skin ageing.
With so many myths flying around about sun cream and UV exposure, it can be difficult to know what’s best and how to know you’re getting it right. The following article explores some of the most common beliefs regarding sun protection; looking at whether there’s any truth behind them.
TRUE or FALSE?
‘SPF 50 is double SPF 25’
FALSE: Although the mantra ‘the higher SPF, the better’ still applies, SPF 50 sun cream only offers a tiny 1% more protection that SPF 30 – don’t be fooled.
‘You need new sun cream each year’
TRUE: Sun cream tends to only have a shelf life of 12 months and so it is really important to buy new sun cream each year as the amount of protection it provides drastically decreases over time.
‘People with dark skin don’t need sun cream’
FALSE: Yes, those with darker skin types have more melanin to help protect their skin against UV damage BUT it still needs sun cream. Dark skin tones are still susceptible to UV damage causing skin ageing and cancer.
‘You need to wait 20 minutes after applying sun cream before going in the sun’
TRUE: For chemical sun creams (e.g. avobenzone or oxybenzone) this is true because you have to wait for it to soak in and form a protective layer over your skin. However, physical sun creams (e.g. zinc oxide or titanium oxide) work immediately after applying. If you’re unsure, wait the 20 minutes.
‘Children are more susceptible to UV damage’
TRUE: Children have fairer, thinner and more sensitive skin and therefore they are more vulnerable to UV damage. Ensure children are kept out of the sun between 10am-2pm, they are covered with clothes, hats and sunglasses, and they are wearing a broad spectrum sun cream of SPF30+.
‘You only need to reapply sun cream if you sweat lots or go in the water’
FALSE: You do need to reapply your sun cream if you sweat a lot or if you go in the water. But you also need to reapply sun cream every two hours as the filters degrade over time and with sun exposure. So even if you don’t sweat much, the protection will diminish over the course of the day.
‘A base tan will protect me from the sun on holiday’
FALSE: A ‘base tan’ only offers a maximum of SPF 4, and that’s only due to your body’s protective reaction to the damage already caused. Fake tan has absolutely no effect on your body’s vulnerability to sun exposure.
‘You need a teaspoon of sun cream per limb or body part’
TRUE: Most people do not apply anywhere near enough sun cream for it to be as effective as the bottle states. Approximately a teaspoon per individual limb or body part is a good amount. Also, don’t vigorously rub sun cream in, as this will damage the UV filters.