Sky-high temperatures can only mean one thing: Summer is in full swing. But before we all head outdoors to soak up the sun, Walayat Hussain, MRCP (London), a consultant dermatologist at Nuffield Health, is here to bust five popular myths surrounding sun safety to ensure people think twice about risking their health this season. Scroll down to find out the truth about the sun and your skin health.
Myth 1: Your skin is only damaged when it becomes sunburned.
“Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays, so everyone who is exposed to UV light is at risk,” says Dr. Hussain. “Some people are more vulnerable than others, such as those with pale skin or many moles. Sunburn is only a short-term risk of sun exposure though, with everyone being at risk of further irreversible and serious sun damage, which can lead to skin cancer regardless of vulnerability to sunburn.”
Myth 2: Not using sunscreen gives you a better, longer-lasting tan.
Although sun exposure encourages more melanin production and a deeper tan, too much sun too early will result in burning. “It’s important to give your body time to “acclimatize” by starting vacations with sun protection factor (SPF) 50, rather than SPF 40, and reduce until you find a healthy balance between tanning and sun protection,” says Hussain. “If at the end of the day you burn, tingle or itch, go back up to a higher [SPF].”
Remember that any exposure to the sun increases your risk of skin damage, particularly as you lower your SPF. Burning is a clear sign that your cells have mutated, dramatically increasing your risk of skin cancer.
Myth 3: SPF is the only important rating on sunscreens.
“UVA and UVB are the two kinds of UV ray that affect us on the Earth’s surface,” says Hussain. “Both can damage our skin and can cause cancer. SPF is only a measure of how well the lotion will protect you from UVB light, and many lotions only protect you from UVB radiation.”
To make sure you are protected from both UVA and UVB, check the bottle for a star rating, which is the measure of UVA protection in relation to the SPF. “Three to five stars will protect you sufficiently dependent on your SPF,” says Hussain. “Look for the term ‘broad spectrum,’ which means the lotion protects from both UVA and UVB rays.”
Myth 4: It’s effective to use the same SPF on any part of the body.
“The face, nose, eyes, and ears are more sensitive to the sun than the body, so wear a stronger factor on these areas and put a hat and sunglasses on, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest,” says Hussain. “Make sure the hat covers the neck, which is often overlooked.”
Myth 5: Your clothes protect you from any sun damage.
Many people think they don’t have to wear sunscreen if they are covered up and wearing clothes. In fact, many fabrics will not protect you from the sun’s rays. “UPF is a rating of sun protection for clothing and other fabrics,” says Hussain. “Lighter fabrics, which are more popular in sunny months, typically have a lower UPF rating, and are less protective than heavier fabrics. So it’s important that you apply sun lotion even if you cover up.”
This information originally appeared on our sister site, Yours.