Summer is fast approaching and, with the increased heat, more people are heading to pools and lakes and beaches to cool off. For several years, we have been advised by experts to avoid the sun during peak hours and to apply sunscreen and other protection anytime we do go outdoors. The use of sunscreen may have increased over the past few decades but there are still several myths that pose a threat to dermatologic health. We hope you’re not believing them.
A base tan decreases the risk of sunburn.
Dermatologists say this so much that it is virtually our mantra: There is no such thing as a safe tan. Period. The fact that the skin has changed color means that it is responding to injury by ultraviolet radiation. Skin cells react to UV light by producing more melanin. Melanin is the chemical that colors the skin, which is what produces that glow that sunbathers appreciate. What they won’t appreciate is the wrinkling, spotting, and potential for skin cancer that their base tan has also provided. Our advice is to skip the base tan and wear quality sunscreen instead.
After Childhood, the damage is already done.
Some bodies of research have suggested that a good deal of the sun damage one sustains in their lifetime occurs before the age of 18. Newer research has confirmed that this idea is false. In fact, experts now believe that early exposure to UV rays only accounts for about 25 percent of the total one will incur over the course of their life. This means that, at any age, sun protection is vitally important. There is a risk for sunburn, cosmetic degradation, and skin cancer at every age.
Darker skin tones are naturally protected from UV damage.
Skin cancer is partially related to UV exposure and partially related to genetics. Therefore, the idea that darker skin tones are naturally less susceptible to UV damage is entirely false. In fact, a paper published by the CDC stated that 30 percent of darker-skinned individuals reported at least one sunburn within the past twelve months. Singer Bob Marley died of melanoma due to an initial misdiagnosis that may have stemmed from the misconception about darker skin being naturally protected from skin cancer. Whatever your skin tone, you need to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen.
The SPF Matter
Many people believe that SPF higher than 15 is generally a waste. Studies do indicate that a higher SPF only provides a small percentage more protection than the SPF that comes before. However, because there tend to be issues with the application, such as not applying enough sunscreen and not applying frequently enough, dermatologists stand behind the use of higher SPF products whenever possible. In addition, we encourage patients to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to ensure both UVA and UVB light is filtered.