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Top Five Sunscreen Misconceptions

Source: user the_amanda

Source: user the_amanda

Top Five Sunscreen Misconceptions

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to pay special attention to daily sunscreen application. As a self-proclaimed “Casper”, I take sunscreen very seriously. (I have to if I don’t want to turn into a lobster after 20 minutes in the California sun.) Even though most people aren’t as pale as I am, everyone should treat their skin as if it were as sensitive to the sun as mine. Why? Although your skin may not exhibit the redness of sun damage, the damage is still occurring.

Just like the belief that no redness means no damage, there are a lot of other misconceptions surrounding sunscreen moisturizers. Here’s a quick look at the top five sunscreen misconceptions and the truth surrounding them.

SPF 30 + SPF 20 = SPF 50
Mixing or layering skin care products with SPF ratings does not create a higher SPF. Your protection against the sun’s rays is only as strong as the strongest SPF applied. That means if you apply a sunscreen with an SPF 30, a moisturizer with an SPF 15, and a foundation with an SPF 8, your protection will still be an SPF 30.

Side Note: Did you know that an SPF 30 gives only 2% more protection than an SPF 15? The higher rating is still superior, but you shouldn’t worry if you end up using a lower SPF when a higher one isn’t available.

More is Better
A higher SPF rating is not necessarily better. SPF ratings refer only to the protection provided against UVB rays, even though the skin also needs to be protected from UVA rays (the “aging rays” that cause visible signs of aging such as skin wrinkles) and free radicals. Therefore, it’s important to choose a broad-spectrum sunblock that features a good SPF, antioxidants, and ingredients that block UVA rays. The FDA is currently working on a rating revision that will provide a better idea of how much protection a formula truly provides.

No Sun, No Damage
Even if the sun is nowhere in sight, it’s pesky UV rays can still damage your skin! Sunscreen should be worn year round, regardless of weather conditions. Damage is just as likely to occur in winter while you’re driving in your car as it is in summer while you’re playing on the beach. So, don’t skimp just because of clouds, rain, or even shade.

Baby Sunscreen is for Babies
Ok, so baby sunscreen is technically for babies, but did you know that baby sunscreen formulations are almost identical to adult formulations? Separate sunscreens for babies, children and adults are mostly marketing schemes designed to make you, the consumer, buy the same product multiple times. Some products designed for children do contain gentler ingredients, but most of them have no difference other than packaging. Therefore, you’re welcome to use your little one’s sunscreen without compromising your skin’s safety!

Last is Best
Many people like to apply their sunscreen moments before they walk out the door in order to prolong the amount of time between on-the-go applications. However, sunscreen actually takes about 20-30 minutes to activate. This means that if you apply your protective formula right before you walk into the sun, you’ll have almost a half an hour of unprotected sun exposure! If you apply your sunscreen during your morning skin care routine, it should be activated by the time you leave the house. Make sure to reapply every 90-120 minutes, especially if you’re going to be outside between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.



  1. sue ingram
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    One fact that isn’t often considered is that if you get a sunscreen that protects you against UVB only, it actually means that you will get a greater burn from UVA than you would if you had worn no sunscreen at all!
    In other words, by putting on the UVB protection, your brain won’t receive the message that you are burning for a while longer than if you had worn nothing. If it’s a sun protection factor 30, maybe you won’t start to feel the burn for at least 2 hours. (or about an hour maximum in your case Leanna?) So you’ll get 2 hours of uninhibited UVA skin penetration before you start to feel like you should get out of the sun. But if you’re a good person, you’ll reapply like you’ve been told to and stay out in the sun for even longer and let the UVA rays carry on burning!

  2. Leanna Kelly
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    What fantastic information, Sue! Thank you so much for sharing. You’re definitely right in my case — I start burning way sooner than I “should” according to my sunscreen’s packaging. I’ll be sure to remember this tip next time I’m applying my UVB-oriented formulations.

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