Sunscreen: Myths and Facts

There have always been some popular beliefs and false statements made regarding sunscreen and skin cancer.

There have always been some popular beliefs and false statements made regarding sunscreen and skin cancer. Dermatologists and other skincare professionals constantly try to educate the public on what is fact and what is myth. Distinguishing between the two is important to your skin’s health. Here are the top 5 most common myths I came across:

Myth #1: All sunscreens are created equal.

Not all sunscreens that have an SPF of 15 provide the same type of protection. In fact, some sunscreens only protect against UVB and not UVA. Make sure to get a sunscreen that says “UVA/UVB” or “broad-spectrum protection”.

Also, there really is a difference between the $5 versus $40 bottle. Better, more stable ingredients are expensive to create and are therefore reflected in the consumer’s price. Although purchasing the priciest bottle isn’t necessary, applying sunscreen you found at the dollar store may not be the best idea.

Sunscreen bottles

Myth #2: The higher the SPF, the better.

This has been one of the biggest misconceptions of sunscreen. If you double the SPF, you are not doubling the protection. (SPF 30 is not twice as strong as SPF 15.) Here is the breakdown: SPF 15 blocks about 93% of rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97%, and SPF 50 blocks about 98%.

For people who work indoors and only need protection from incidental sun exposure, SPF 15-30 is sufficient. People who are active outdoors will need SPF 50 for better protection.

Myth #3: I only need to wear sunscreen on hot, sunny days.

UV rays are constantly being emitted from the sun. Even on cloudy days, about 80% of those harmful rays are still reaching the earth’s surface and penetrating clothes and windows.

And remember, rays are being reflected off of the ground all the time. Whether you’re water skiing or snow skiing, you still need protection. In fact, your skin is at greater risk for damage because you are getting both the direct rays and the reflected rays.

Myth #4: I need sun exposure every day to get my daily dose of Vitamin D.

Most experts will agree that almost anyone will receive adequate vitamin D exposure with everyday outdoor activity (driving in the car, walking the dog) even with sunscreen on. If you are truly concerned, there are many supplements that you can take to ensure you are receiving enough Vitamin D.

Myth #5: Physical sunscreen is natural and organic.

Many people believe a physical sunscreen is better for your health because it is derived from minerals and is therefore natural and organic. However, the physical sunscreens that provide better protection contain ingredients that are put through a chemical process. So although you may see the words zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label, it is most likely not chemical-free.


Now that we’ve dispelled some myths, let’s take a look at 5 interesting facts.

Colorescience mineral brushFact # 1: Reapplying every 2-3 hours is necessary to maintain proper protection.

Yes, you really do need reapply every couple hours. And even more often if you are swimming or sweat a lot. So how much is enough? Experts say to apply a teaspoon to the face and one ounce (or a shotglass-full) to the body.

To avoid needing to take off makeup, reapply sunscreen using a mineral powder brush. It will not only give you the proper protection you need but also give you a flawless, matte look.

Fact # 2: Most products with SPF do not contain anything to prevent against UVA damage.

A lot of products such as makeup and moisturizers will boast having an SPF of at least 15. And since that is the minimum recommended SPF, people will assume they are getting enough protection. However, as we learned in my previous blog, SPF only protects against UVB rays. This leaves your skin completely vulnerable to UVA rays, the ones that cause premature aging and wrinkles. Make sure you still apply sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection underneath your makeup.

Fact # 3: Antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) under sunscreen can help boost its effects 4-fold.

UV rays cause damage by creating free radicals and altering DNA. If antioxidants are applied before sunscreen, this creates an additional barrier and increases your skin’s protection.

Fact # 4: A white cotton shirt has an SPF of around 5-7.

Wearing light-colored clothing does not provide adequate skin protection. Many people think the light will reflect off their shirts. However, this doesn’t help with UV rays that penetrate right through. Sunscreen underneath clothes is a must, especially if you will be outdoors for a long period of time.

Fact # 5: Wearing dark sunglasses does not mean you are getting the best protection.

Look closely at the sticker that indicates the sunglasses’ level of protection. (Most sunglasses have them.) Choose ones that say “100% UV protection” or “UV 400 protection”.

If you are not sure about your sunglasses’ protection level, take them to the optometrist for testing. Most clinics will do it for free, and it only takes a few minutes.

And remember, light-colored sunglasses with 100% UV protection are much better for your eyes than dark-tinted sunglasses with no protection.


Skin cancer is one of the most overlooked cancers due to its unassuming progression and lack of symptoms in the early-to-mid stages. The facts below are scary, but very real. For more information, check out

Skin Cancer Fact #1: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. There are more new cases of skin cancer every year than breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancers COMBINED.

Skin Cancer Fact #2: 5 or more sunburns over a lifetime doubles your risk of melanoma, with the rate of death being one per hour.

Skin Cancer Fact #3: One in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Skin Cancer Fact #4: Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for 25-29 year olds.

Skin Cancer Fact #5: Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

Protect yourself by getting yearly full-body skin checks (every 6 months if you have a family history of skin cancer).

ABCs of Skin Cancer

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