Misleading Sun Protection Facts: True or False?
Last updated: April 2021
Information can spread quickly – regardless of whether it’s actually true or not. Because of this, it’s important to take a moment to verify certain statements before you take them as the truth. This is especially important when it comes to your health and UV protection.
The whole truth and nothing but the truth
After my diagnosis, I’ve been trying to use my experience to help educate others on the importance of sun protection, especially my close friends and family. Throughout these conversations, I’ve realized that there are many misleading "facts" around sun protection. Below are some of the commonly known "facts" that other people have shared with me in recent months, some of which you may have even believed yourself, and the truth behind them:
"You only need to worry about sun protection when you’re older”
False: Skin cancer can manifest on anyone at any age. Also, skin damage is cumulative. The more you are exposed to UV rays and experience sunburns when you are younger, the higher your chances are of getting skin cancer when you’re older.
“Wearing any t-shirt or clothing over your skin will keep it protected from UV radiation”
False: Yes, any fabric or barrier between your skin and the sun should provide some level of protection. However, it’s often not nearly enough to keep your skin truly safe or protected. Hold the fabric up to the light. If you can see a lot of the light coming through, it's also likely allowing a lot of the UV radiation to penetrate the fabric and reach your skin. Your safest bet is to find UPF clothing products that are rated at UPF 50+ to ensure you are properly protected. A UPF 50+ fabric provides the equivalent level of protection as an SPF 50 sunscreen.
“You don’t need to worry about sun protection in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is at its lowest”
False: The sun is always emitting damaging UV rays, no matter the weather or time of year. The sun’s UV radiation is strongest in the middle of the day, but it doesn’t go away completely at other times. It’s important you keep your skin protected throughout the entire day, every day not just when it’s the sunniest and hottest.
“As long as you don’t burn you don’t need sunscreen”
False: Just because you do not have any visible sunburn does not mean your skin was not damaged. Exposure to UV rays is shown to directly contribute to the development of skin cancer. This is regardless of your skin color or how easily you burn, UV rays are damaging to EVERYBODY.
“The chemicals in sunscreen can be equally as harmful to your skin as the suns UV rays”
False: I was actually very surprised to hear one of my friends try to convince me of this. It couldn’t be further from the truth. UV radiation is a proven cause of skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in America. And on the other hand, there is no medical evidence that any of the chemicals used in sunscreen can cause any major health complications. If you are averse to using chemicals on your skin, simply stick to physical sunblocks (which utilize mineral-based ingredients instead of chemicals) or even UPF apparel.
Whatever you decide to do, don't skip sun protection altogether.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?