There are a lot of myths out there that we have debunked in the past, from the dangers of “base tans” to thinking you don’t need to reapply higher SPFs as often. But there are lots of myths out there that can have an adverse impact on your skin, so here are several more that we’re here to debunk!
Your sunscreen can be used as a moisturizer
It’s a common misconception that sunscreen is a moisturizing step in your skincare routine, but sometimes it’s not. Most sunscreens have one job that they do well: block out UVA and UVB rays. But there are a lot of people who assume that this last step can be done in lieu of a moisturizer and you might be irritating and drying your skin out if you do. Check your labels and look for additional ingredients like hyaluronic acid, lipids, shea butter, and any other mentions of moisturizing capabilities. Some sunscreens like HA Physical Tint SPF 44 or Peptide Concealer SPF 50 DO have moisturizing properties, so you can use them as moisturizer in the applied area without drying. But if your sunscreen isn’t broadly advertising that it can moisturize your skin, it probably can’t.
Sunscreen prevents you from getting enough vitamin D
Your body relies on direct sun exposure to create vitamin D, so it’s understandable that people would be concerned about a deficiency if they’re slathered from head to toe. But if you factor into account that very few people apply sunscreen over every square inch of their body, and even fewer reapply it as frequently throughout the day as they should, there’s a very low likelihood that you’re missing out on the exposure you need. Most of us only need about 10-20 minutes of exposure every day in order to get the vitamin D that we need, and UV rays can travel through lighter clothing as well. So the average person is getting more than enough sunlight to stay healthy.
If you are concerned about a vitamin D deficiency, you can also add a daily supplement to make sure you are getting enough. But we recommend stepping out in the sun every morning when it’s still early but the sun has already come up to get your daily dose without doing any damage. Besides, evidence is mounting that doing this can boost serotonin levels and promote a calm and positive mood.
The higher the SPF the better
We recommend SPF 30 for most sunscreens, and SPF 40 and up if you’re using a product that also has makeup coverage in it. This will have you up to 97% covered from UV rays and anything higher is only going to provide 1-2% more coverage. There’s nothing that will give you 100% coverage, short of staying in a windowless room all day. There’s no harm in going higher if you want, but there’s also no need. Just make sure you also incorporate an antioxidant like vitamin C because there’s evidence that it can help close the small gap of exposure that your sunscreen can’t.
You don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days
There is a very simple way to remember if you need to be wearing sunscreen: if you can see daylight, you should be applying it. UV rays can travel through clouds and any skin that isn’t covered by thicker clothing, and that includes driving around in your car. There is a popular photo circulating that shows significant sun damage a man had on half of his face after spending decades on the road for work. The left side of your body is getting hit by a lot of UV light while you drive, so don’t skip it if you’re just out running errands.
Sunscreen is waterproof
There is actually no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, it can only be water resistant. For a long time there were sunscreens that were falsely marketing they could stay on your skin even after things like sweating or swimming. However, the FDA has stopped allowing sunscreen products to make these claims. It is important to note that water resistant sunscreens do hold up better against water and might not wash off as easily after a swim, but they will still eventually lose coverage. You should be reapplying sunscreen every two hours to make sure you stay covered.
Sunscreen ingredients are bad for you and the environment
Concerns were brought up about whether or not sunscreen was safe years ago when traces of the chemicals in sunscreen were detected in the blood stream of people who had used them. While there is no evidence that it caused any harm, all sunscreens were suddenly lumped in with this theory and considered to be unsafe. So it’s important to point out a few important points to understand that most sunscreens are actually perfectly safe.
First, if you are concerned about your body absorbing chemicals from your sunscreen, use a physical one with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Both ingredients are most effective because they sit on top of the skin instead of being absorbed by it, living up to their name of physically blocking out UV rays. They typically come with a bright white sheen on your skin and they’re perfectly safe for both you and the environment.
Chemical sunscreens work differently because they are absorbed by your skin, where they then absorb UV rays for your skin so that your skin stays unaffected. Most chemical sunscreens are perfectly safe for both us and the environment, but if you are concerned just be sure to avoid the following ingredients when shopping for a sunscreen:
Darker skin types don’t need to wear sunscreen
Although dark skinned people will not sunburn as easily as those with lighter tones, that doesn’t make them immune to skin cancer and photoaging. Darker skin tones (anyone who falls on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type scale of 4—6) already have high amounts of melanin in their skin, which provides additional protection against UV rays. But this doesn’t offer a free pass on using sunscreen. The sun’s rays are indiscriminate and will hit every skin cell with the same energy, regardless of skin color. Even though darker skin is statistically less prone to skin cancers like melanoma, there’s nothing preventing your skin from photodamage. Do your skin a favor and apply sunscreen, regardless of your skin’s color.