a woman holds her arm up to shade her eyes from the sun but her skin is covered with overlapping burns

Sunburn and Sunscreen Myths....Don't Fall For Them!

I had someone ask me a great question the other day. She mentioned that she had just gotten a spray tan to help protect her from sunburn, since she was getting ready to leave for vacation. I must have had a funny look on my face, because she then asked me if a spray tan wouldn’t protect her from sunburn. Her question made me wonder if other people also thought the same thing.

The myths and the facts

Then I wondered, what are some other common misconceptions and myths about sunburn and sunscreen? I did a little research, and here are some common ones. You may find some of these surprising, while others may seem like common sense.

Myth: Most of the sun damage to your skin happens before age 18.

This is false. While it’s true that having even just one bad sunburn when you are a kid can double your chances of melanoma, you can still do damage to your skin (and cause skin cancer) as an adult.

Myth: A tanning bed is safer than the sun.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Stay out of tanning beds. There is a reason that they are being banned by some countries. I wish the rest of the countries would follow suit. Women under 30 who use a tanning bed are six times more likely to develop melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Myth: You can’t get a sunburn on a cloudy day.

False; 80% of the sun’s rays can pass through clouds, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, so cover up, buttercup.

Myth: You won’t burn in the shade.

Wrong. You can be sitting under the shade of a beach umbrella and get a sunburn from the sun reflecting off the sand and water. I was surprised to learn that even grass can reflect the sun’s rays.

Myth: It's okay to tan as long as you don’t burn.

Nope. Tanned skin is actually skin that is damaged skin. There is DNA damage done to the skin, increasing the risk for developing skin cancer. This myth is probably the reason that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Myth: You can only burn between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Wrong. You can also get a sunburn early in the morning, early in the evening, and all the hours in between.

Myth: If you have darker skin, you don’t need sunblock.

Not true. If you have skin, you can get a sunburn and you can get skin cancer. Did you know that Bob Marley died of melanoma?

Myth: If you wear a high SPF sunscreen, you don’t need to reapply as often.

This is also false. No matter the SPF, you need to reapply frequently (typically every two hours).

Myth: Young people don’t have to worry about getting skin cancer.

You might want to start worrying. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults.

Myth: Skin cancer won’t happen to you.

That’s the same thing I thought, 24 years ago when I was first diagnosed. I’m still getting new skin cancer areas. Skin cancer can happen to you.

Protect yourself!

By the way, the answer about if a spray tan will help protect from sunburn is NO – a spray tan will not protect your skin from sunburn. Your skin may look like it has a sun-kissed glow but there is zero protection given from a spray tan, so be sure to wear your sunscreen!

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