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Controversy and misconceptions always trails success and there’s no doubt that the Sun Care industry is a booming and successful one, with over 1.85 billion dollars as the value of sun care products in the United States. The propagation of the use and correct use of sunscreen then seems like an attempt to fleece the public, to many even though it is a known truth that sunscreens protect the skin from harmful sun exposure, these misconceptions still abound. Below are the top 7 misconceptions on the use of sunscreens.
- All sunscreens are the same: This is certainly not true because some are milder on the skin, some are for babies, some are water resistant, while some are not, and not to forget the difference in Skin Protection Factor (SPF) ratings. Which brings us to this: the SPF is only a degree of how well the sun screen deflects Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) rays, which is just one out of the harmful ultraviolet rays the sun emits. Protection against Ultraviolet-A (UV-A) rays which is responsible for skin wrinkling, premature aging and skin damage that can lead to cancer is left out in sun screens that are not labeled or regarded as "broad spectrum". So it becomes important to look out for broad spectrum sunscreens to ensure protection from both UV-A and UV-B rays. Active ingredients to also look out for are avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and ecamsule, as they confer protection against UVA and UVB rays.
- I don’t need sunscreen on overcast days: Not true! Just because the sky is cloudy doesn’t mean it stops the UV rays from reaching the skin. UV rays particularly UV-A rays which has a longer wavelengths penetrates the cloud to cause damage on the skin. The clouds block only the infrared rays which give an explanation to why we don’t feel the heat, but they cannot block UV rays completely, and this fact is supported by The American Academy of Dermatology, which says up to 80 percent of UV rays from the sun are still able to penetrate through the clouds. So just because it says sunscreen and the sun is not up doesn’t mean you should not protect your skin. As long as you’re exposed to light, even if you’re driving or under a shade, you’re not exempted from the skin damaging UV rays. Thus sunscreen should be applied daily and routinely, regardless of weather conditions or the season.
- Frequent use of sun screens leads to vitamin D deficiencies: There’s certainly no doubt that sun screens are designed to shield against UVB rays that stimulate the metabolism and absorption of vitamin D. Yet sunscreens do not completely block all rays as stated by their Sun Protecting Factor (SPF). The UVB rays still penetrate the skin to stimulate the production of vitamin D. Experts have also say that the amount of sun exposure needed to metabolize vitamin D is quite minimal and daily exposure is often more than enough. Notwithstanding the fact that after a limited amount of sun exposure, Vitamin D production actually reaches its peak and stops and subsequent exposure will only break down the vitamin D, and coupled with the wrong use of sunscreens by many consumers; in terms of application and dosage, the exposure time which is as result of common improper use of sun screens is enough to result in the production of vitamin D. Finally, we also have to realize that we are not limited to cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D alone. Vitamin D can also be gotten from foods such as tuna, salmon, cereals, dairy products, cheese and importantly, vitamin D can also be gotten from vitamin supplements.
- People with dark skin do not need sunscreen: Your beliefs are certainly not out of place when you’re of the notion that dark skin confers some level of protection from the sun. Yes it does, but it is not significant enough to avoid using sunscreens. Melanin present in the skin of people of color works to give color to the skin and diffuse UVB rays. Despite it not being able to protect you for an extended period of time, it also does not protect you from UVA damage that is largely attributed to premature aging of the skin. Also, melanin will not protect the skin from prolonged sun exposure, and neither will it prevent health problems that come along with unprotected and excessive skin exposure to the sun. A major example is skin cancer and people with a darker shade of complexion are certainly not immune. The dark skin even makes it more difficult to diagnose skin damage than in people with lighter skin, thus cancerous growths are not often detected on time and most tend to be found in the late stages. While dark skin offers more protection from the sun, people with a dark shade of complexion still need sunscreen to prevent sun damage which nature did not exempt them of; we are all on this oven planet together. Even though it might not be easily visible, the dark skin burns, and is more prone to hyperpigmentation because of higher melanin levels in the skin. Thus not only is it important to seek regular skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist, if you are of the dark skin type, it is also important to keep yourself protected with sun screens always.
- Sunscreen can cause cancer: This should be restated as the sun causes cancer. This occurs via exposure to ultraviolet light which leads to basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, and the deadliest of them all, the malignant melanoma, which develops in the melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells in the skin), as a result of exposure to UV light. In an American Journal of Public health, the study research showed that the largely positive association with skin cancer and the use of sunscreens in existing literatures, was as a result of bias inherent in study designs and uncontrolled confounding, and this was evident in an older study done on oxybenzone (active ingredient in many sunscreens) that made it come under so much criticism and scrutiny. In the study, rats exposed to oxybenzone developed serious negative side effects but the levels of exposure that was used in the study to produce health problems in the rats were extremely high and unattainable in humans, even to regular users of sunscreens, and till date medical research has not found a positive correlation between use of sunscreens and development of malignant melanoma. So since the sun remains the most important causative factor of skin cancer, it is therefore important that we protect our skin by applying sunscreens daily, and in the right doses. Think about it, if sunscreens did cause cancer, most of us should have it by now, since its being around for quite a long time.
- Sunscreens are not entirely waterproof: It’s a common misconception to think because the label on a sun screen reads water resistant, means its water proof. Not only is it a wrong notion, the government has also made it illegal to advertise sun screens as sun blocks or water proof. While a sun screen might be resistant to water, it must definitely have a time threshold of water resistance; whether 30 minutes or an hour or perhaps even a longer. Thus when we’re out at the beach, swimming or participating in a sport that makes us sweat profusely, and also after using the towel, we should always reapply our sun screen for adequate protection from sun.
- Sunscreen needs to be applied once daily: There’s no sunscreen that offers 24 hours protection. Sunscreen needs to be applied at least every two hours, as stated by the American journal of dermatology, and more frequently when playing outdoor sports, swimming or sweating profusely. Inadequate and improper use of sunscreen exposes the skin to sun damage because the SPF value of the product is not attained. So apply sunscreen evenly on your body, and at regular durations to ensure protection from sun damage.