Sunscreen is an important step in preventing skin cancer, but surprisingly it can be a subject for debate. There are plenty of myths out there which may cause people to avoid sunscreen, or to apply it incorrectly.
To take out some of the confusion regarding sunscreen, here are four common myths … busted!
TRUTH: SPF stands for sun protection factor, and not all sunscreens are created equally. SPF 15 is generally found in lighter facial creams, while SPF 50+ has become the new standard in Australia as determined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The sun has both UVA (this causes ageing) and UVB rays (more often associated with skin cancer).
An SPF 50+ will block 98% of UVB radiation and includes added UVA protection. SPF 30+ blocks out 96.7% of UVB, and an SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB. It might not sound like much, but simply switching to a higher SPF can boost your sun safety this summer.
TRUTH: Even when the sky is overcast your skin can still be subjected to long term damage. While it is true that clouds can reduce the impact of UV rays on your skin, the sun can still shine through.
Thick clouds offer more protection, but don’t be fooled because the risk of skin cancer is still real, so apply that sunscreen. This myth ties in with another common misconception which is “if I wear sunscreen, I don’t need a shirt”. It should never be one or the other, it should always be a slip, slop, slap, seek and slide!
TRUTH: Some people are afraid to use sunscreen due to potential side effects. It is a common misbelief that use of sunscreen can cause cancer. In reality, the sun causes the majority of cancers in Australia.
In regards to sunscreen blocking Vitamin D, research has shown sunscreen will not prevent Vitamin D absorption when used in real life conditions.
In rare cases people may experience an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients found in sunscreen, but switching brands or consulting with a doctor may help. It is recommended you always do a patch test before trying a new sunscreen.
TRUTH: Sunscreen needs to be applied regularly throughout the day when enjoying the outdoors. At least 30 minutes before initial sun exposure a generous amount should be used, and reapplied again every 2 hours.
Sunscreens are not completely waterproof, however there are options which are water resistant. These water resistant products are recommended for swimming, but it is still important to combine this with other sun protection efforts.
Sunscreen can lose its effectiveness if it goes past the expiry date, and should be discarded at this time. As a general rule, replace your sunscreen every three years.
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