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Sunscreens

Sunscreen myths 

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Here, we bust some common sunscreen myths you might have heard.

MYTH 1: Sunscreens give 100% protection


No sunscreen can provide 100% protection. The term “sunblock” should not be used on sun protection products and this has been an industry recommendation since 2002. Sunscreens should never be used in order to stay in the sun for longer.

Read more about protection levels here.

MYTH 2: If I apply SPF 15 twice, that makes it SPF 30


A double application of an SPF 15 product does not give a level of protection equivalent to SPF 30. Reapplying sunscreen acts to maintain the expected level of protection and will not increase this level beyond the SPF on pack. Always follow the instructions for application and use.

MYTH 3: The amount of time you take to burn multiplied by the SPF of your sunscreen is the maximum time you should spend in the sun


Sunscreen should never be used to extend the amount of time that you spend in the sun.  The SPF category and number provides an indication of the amount of protection sunscreen provides against UVB rays.  An SPF of 15 will filter out approximately 93% of UVB rays and an SPF of 30 will filter out around 96%. While this might not seem like a big difference, it can have a significant improvement in sun protection for someone who burns easily. SPF15 is the recommended minimum by most health experts.

MYTH 4: Applying half the recommended quantity of sunscreen will reduce the SPF protection by half


The relationship between the quantity of sunscreen applied and the SPF protection you will receive is not straightforward.  In fact, applying half the recommended amount of sunscreen can reduce the level of protection by as much as two thirds*. 

The recommended amount to be applied is based on 2mg/cm2 body surface area, the amount used in the scientific test to determine the product is effective. This is quite hard to visualise, but it can be more easily thought of as about 35ml for an average person or a “golf ball” size amount per body; or six to eight teaspoons.

*British Association of Dermatologists Sunscreen Factsheet

MYTH 5: If I wear a high SPF sunscreen I won’t get a tan


It is possible to get a tan whilst wearing a high factor SPF. Even though the tan may take longer to develop, your risk of skin damage is lower. Trying to tan quickly by using a low factor SPF will increase the risk of damaging the skin and may also result in sunburn.

Most health experts consider the development of a tan to be an indication that the skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself against further damage. While some people may want their skin to have some degree of a tan, it is essential that they are made aware of the risks of sun exposure and are discouraged from developing a deeply coloured tan or getting burned. In order to achieve a tanned looking skin, you could consider using self-tanning products, but remember in most cases they will not offer any sun protection unless labelled with an SPF /UVA logo.

MYTH 6: Cheap sunscreen products don’t work as well as expensive ones


There is a wide range of sunscreen products available to accommodate various lifestyles and budgets. Just because a product is cheaper does not mean that it will work less effectively than a more expensive product claiming the same level of protection. The laws that cover the manufacture of cosmetic products require that all claims made, including sun protection claims, must be substantiated. However, it is important that you buy your sunscreens from a reputable retail outlet.

MYTH 7: I don’t need to apply sunscreen on cloudy days


The sun’s UV rays can penetrate light cloud and therefore it is still possible to be sunburned in the summer when the sky is cloudy and particularly the closer you are to the Equator. It is therefore always best to be safe and apply sunscreens, even on cloudy summer days.

MYTH 8: Wearing sunscreen will stop my body from making vitamin D


It is still possible to get all the vitamin D the body needs from incidental sun exposure, even if you’re wearing sunscreen. Most people have sufficient exposure to the sun in their day-to-day lives to produce adequate amounts of this vitamin. It is not normally necessary to seek extra unprotected sun exposure.