Top Sunscreen Myths: Busted

Routine 101

Top Sunscreen Myths: Busted

By Hanna Yowell

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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, there can be a lot of misinformation floating around about the subject. So, once and for all, we’re busting some of the top sunscreen myths we hear most often—from the treatment room to Instagram.

MYTH: A higher SPF protects you for longer.

In actuality, how much sunscreen you apply and reapply matters just as much as the number of SPF you choose. This is because the SPF won’t function at the number it’s labeled as unless you apply the recommended amount throughout the day. We recommend 2 finger lengths long for your face and neck (½ teaspoon) and 1 shot glass full for your whole body (3 tablespoons). This is on average and will vary person-to-person, but make sure to try and reapply throughout the day; we recommend about every 2 hours especially after swimming, sweating, or spending the day outside in high UV exposure. 

In terms of SPF numbers, we always recommend that you use a minimum of SPF 30. 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.

MYTH: All types of sunscreen protects against all sun rays

“Sunscreen does not protect you from both UVA and UVB rays unless it’s labeled as Broad Spectrum,” says Heyday Skincare Educator Shea Amiruddin. This is because SPF (“Sun Protection Factor'') is only a measure of protection from the sun’s UVB rays. So make sure your sunscreen is labeled Broad Spectrum to ensure total coverage! 

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

All skin tones need to be protected from the sun. A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that although incidence of melanoma is higher in white patients, the overall survival rates for nonwhite patients with melanoma is significantly lower. There are many variables that factor into these disparities including medical racism and misinformationBut, as health care reporter Tiffany Onyejiaka wrote for Healthline, “This lack of awareness isn’t a myth that comes from the Black community itself. It starts with the medical community.”

So yes, all skin tones benefit from daily sunscreen use, as it will be beneficial in preventing skin cancer, hyperpigmentation, and premature aging. But, annual skin checks, increased awareness and healthcare equity, and more inclusive sunscreen options like UnSun Cosmetics are also imperative. 

MYTH: Makeup with SPF is sufficient protection for the day.

“Even if all your makeup products have a degree of SPF in them, this still won’t give you sufficient protection from the sun,” says Shea. Because chances are, these products aren’t providing Broad Spectrum protection. Plus, the amount you apply simply doesn’t stack up to the coverage a regular, liquid sunscreen can provide. So, make sure to apply your sunscreen in the morning, followed by your makeup. An SPF blush or setting spray can make a nice reapplication throughout the day if you’re out and about, but don’t rely on it as your primary sun protection.

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

Not to sound like your mom, but go outside, please! Your circadian rhythms and serotonin levels will thank you for it. But also, the great outdoors are not the only place that you interact with the sun. From working at a desk by a window to traveling via plane, there are plenty of moments throughout the day (even indoors) that expose you to UVA rays, which can contribute to skin cancer and skin damage. Getting in the habit of putting on sunscreen in your morning routine is one of the best things you can do for your long-term skin health, no matter what your plans are for the day.

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

Simply put, 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, sun protection is still a must. 

MYTH: I have to go outside without sunscreen to get vitamin D. 

You can get adequate amounts of vitamin D through your diet and just about 5-10 minutes in the sun each day while still wearing sunscreen. 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.” If your vitamin D levels are still low, you can speak to your doctor about starting a supplement, but don’t skimp on sunscreen. 

MYTH: There isn’t a sunscreen out there that won’t clog my pores.

Ugh, we’ve been there. However, it’s likely that some ingredients in your products aren't compatible with your skin type. If you think your current sunscreen is causing congestion or breakouts, your best bet is opting for a physical sunscreen or one that’s specifically formulated for acne-prone skin, like Dermalogica’s Oil Free Matte SPF 30. Same goes for sensitive skin types—stick to a physical blocker. Plus, we’re more than happy to chat at your next facial about sunscreens and ingredients are best for your skin. Clogged pores should not be a reason to not be keeping yourself safe.

MYTH: I did the damage as a kid already, so it’s too late.

Better late than never! No matter if you grew up by the beach, “never burn,” or think it’s too late—it’s never to late to start good habits. And wearing sunscreen everyday is a good habit to start at any age. Plus, incorporating a product with retinol and other reparative ingredients can be great for soothing past damage.

Protect + Repair


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