Common Misconceptions About Skin Care and Skin Cancer Prevention
Last updated: December 2020
These are the most common misconceptions about skincare and skin cancer prevention that I discuss with patients on a regular basis.
8 misconceptions about skincare and skin cancer prevention
The top ones I hear are:
1. I can rely on the sunscreen in my makeup
Having SPF in face makeup is great, however, it should not be the only product that you rely on for sun protection for a simple reason: the amount applied is not enough. The coverage in makeup is not enough to give adequate SPF protection. Apply a facial sunscreen prior to applying makeup. Powder sunscreens are also available to re-apply on top of makeup! SPF 15 is adequate for daily use, SPF 30-50 is recommended for outdoor activities.1 Just as a reference, 1 ounce or a shot glass full of sunscreen is required for the entire body for adequate protection.1
2. I don't have to wear sunscreen when it's cloudy
Sunscreen is needed even on a cloudy day. UV rays are still reaching the skin even though the clouds are "blocking" the sun. If outdoors for long periods of time, a broad spectrum SPF of 30-50 is recommended.
3. There's no need for sunscreen in the wintertime
Sunscreen is also needed in the wintertime. UV rays from the sun are still penetrating the earth. Also, snow reflects the UV rays and intensifies the penetration of UV radiation into the skin.2
4. A baseball cap will protect me from the sun
A normal baseball cap has an SPF of about 4. To achieve maximum sun protection, wear SPF 30-50 under the hat, and look for hats that have ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). Brands like Coolibara and Swimzip make clothing and hats with UPF protection.
5. My clothing alone has enough sun protection
Just like the baseball caps, regular clothing has an SPF of about 4. Wear sunscreen and UPF clothing for maximal sun protection, especially if outdoors during long periods of time.
6. I should avoid chemical sunscreens
The best sunscreen is the one you actually use! You may have heard some controversy regarding chemical sunscreens in the past few years. Chemical sunscreens, such as avobenzone and oxybenzone are safe and effective. The study that raised controversy about the chemical sunscreens showed that these ingredients were found in the bloodstream after high levels were applied. Since these chemical sunscreens were applied at concentrations higher than what the average person uses as sunscreen application, more studies are needed to show whether these are actually harmful.3 As the American Academy of Dermatology states, "Just because an ingredient is absorbed into the bloodstream does not mean that it is harmful or unsafe."3 Chemical sunscreens to-date are safe to use. Physical sunscreens such as Titanium and Zinc oxide are also safe and best for people with sensitive skin.
7. My scalp is protected by my hair
The hair part is a common area to have sun damage and skin cancers. Protect the scalp hairline with powdered sunscreens and hats with UPF protection.
8. I applied sunscreen in the morning so I am protected for the entire day
All sunscreens stop working after 2 hours, therefore reapplication throughout the day is key. Reapply after sweating and swimming.
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