11 SPF Myths Not To Fall For

11 SPF Myths Not To Fall For

By Michael Pollak

Filed Under

There's a ton of misinformation and fear around sunscreen. We're demystifying a few of them here.

Ask any of our Skin Therapists, and they will all tell you that a huge key to healthy skin for the long haul is using sunscreen. However, sunscreen can get confusing and clients, understandably, ask us a lot of questions about it. So here we go, right from our treatment room: 11 SPF myths our Skin Therapists want to make sure you don’t fall for.


MYTH: Darker skin tones don't need sunscreen or as much.

Sorry, but we have to bust this one right away. All skin tones need to be protected from UVA (aging, skin cancer) rays and UVB (burning) rays. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, dark skin tones were “most likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages than any other group in the study, and they also had the worst prognosis and the lowest overall survival rate.” So yes, while darker skin does produce more melanin that can help protect skin and may burn less quickly or easily, the protection is only to a certain extent. Darker skin can still get sunburns, skin cancer, and see the aging effects of the sun. Our Skin Therapist, Liana, hears “I’m from a really sunny place, so I don’t burn.” Don’t fall prey!

MYTH: The higher the SPF number the better.

“I put on, like, SPF 100, so I’m fine for the beach day.” Big no. We absolutely don’t recommend that you use SPF 4 or 8, because it won’t give you the protection you need. So in that way, yes, a higher SPF is better. However, once you reach SPF 50, anything above that will make minimal difference. “In essence, SPF 100 is just a lot of unnecessary chemicals or marketing,” our Skin Therapist, Taryn says. A good cheat sheet is the following: SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. For everyday use, we always recommend that you use a minimum of SPF 30.

MYTH: SPF factor is a measurement of strength.

“In reality, the SPF number you see on bottles is a measurement of time,” Taryn tells us. “The number on the bottle will multiply your natural ability to fend off the sun, by the indicated SPF factor. So, if you naturally burn after about 10 minutes without any protection, a SPF 30 will give you 300 minutes of protection. However, all sunscreens should be reapplied every 2 hours of exposure!” Do not rely on the cold hard math here, or frankly, bother doing math by the pool. What that measurement of time doesn’t take into consideration is sweat, water, towel wiping, and other things that inadvertently ‘wear off’ your sunscreen.

MYTH: I’m hardly outside, so I don't need to use it.

First of all, not to sound like a Mom but, go outside! Look up from your cell phone! Call me sometime! Secondly, being outside is not the only place that you interact with sun. Do you wait in line at a coffee shop that has some windows? Does your bedroom have a view (views of walls count)? Does your subway car go over the bridge to get to work? Do you travel in airplanes? All of these moments expose you to UVA rays, which causes visible signs of aging and can cause skin cancer. Though they are small, they add up over time. If you can see sun, it can see you.

MYTH: I only need sunscreen in the summer, as winter sun is not that hot.

Our Skin Therapist, Esme, hears this one the most. The strength of the rays that burn and/or age your skin aren’t dependent on heat. It’s based on the UV Index. The UV Index provides a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to UV radiation from the sun, and it’s expressed on a scale of 0 (low) – 11 (extremely high).  This number comes from the U.S. National Weather Service, who uses a fancy computer model that relates the ground-level strength of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation to forecasted ozone layer strength, forecasted cloud cover, location elevation, and general ground observations. So even when it seems cloudy and cold, it’s still hidden up there. Also if you’d like to learn more about the UV Index, we got you.

MYTH: You can get sunburned through a car window.

Nope, car windows block UVB rays so that you won't burn. However, windows, in general, do not block UVA rays. Just think of this photo of a truck driver who, after 28 years on the road, has pronounced sun damage on the side of his face closest to the driver’s side window. You’ve been warned!

MYTH: There’s no other way to get my Vitamin D, especially in the winter.

BUSTED: Almost all New Yorkers are Vitamin D deficient, so we get you. However, the Skin Cancer Foundation confirms that “clinical studies have never found that everyday sunscreen use leads to vitamin D insufficiency.” In fact, they’ve found the opposite, “the prevailing studies show that people who use sunscreen daily can maintain their vitamin D levels.” Also, Vitamin D is very easy to get with supplements or a sun lamp, so you have lots of options to get that D without damaging your skin.


MYTH: I do want a little bit of color this summer, and it’s my only option.

We get it, living in New York can turn you into a bit of a ghost. But UVA rays cause 90% of skin aging and 1 in 6 people get skin cancer, so we really would urge you to look into sunless tanning options, like the Healthy Glow Sunless Tan from our friends at Supergoop!


MYTH: There isn’t any sunscreen that won’t clogs my pores so I usually skip it.

Ugh, that is the worst feeling. However, this is based on the ingredients you’re using and the type of skin that you have. We’re more than happy to speak with you at your next facial about what kinds of sunscreens and ingredients are best for your skin. Clogged pores should not be a reason not to be keeping yourself safe.


MYTH: Putting sunscreen on at night before you go to bed will protect your skin from dust and dirt.

Don’t wear sunscreen to bed. This includes moisturizers that have SPF in them. The night time is when your skin takes in most of its nutrients, and it is better to load it up with ingredients that will help it heal and rebalance than to cover it in a thick cream that won’t let your pores breathe. Also, sunscreen doesn’t protect against dust or dirt, even during the day.


MYTH: I did the damage as a kid already, so whatever.

Better late than never! Even if you were born and raised in a tropical climate or near a beach and “don’t burn.” Start now. Burning is not the only indication of damage, and while we might not be able to undo all of the damage, we can work on it AND protect you going forward.

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