Myths busting

One of the main ways to protect our bodies against exposure to the sun and the negative effects of UV rays is the use of sunscreens.

Myths surrounding the use of sunscreens

As the weather gets warmer, better protection from UV exposure will be necessary to prevent the risk of skin cancer.

A crucial tool to prevent the sun from becoming our worst enemy is sunscreen. However, literature has shown that there are still several myths that can lead to misuse (or no use at all) of sunscreen products.

Such myths include, among others:

  • Believing that the sun protection factor (20, 30, 50, …) is a measure of how long we can stay in the sun.
  • Believing that sun protection prevents getting enough vitamin D from the
  • Believing that sunscreen particles can be found in brain cells years after
  • Believing that chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, while physical or mineral sunscreens reflect them.
  • Believing that people with darker skin tones do not need to use sun protection, as melanoma only develops in people with lighter skin tones.

Moreover, in some countries, these myths may be compounded by certain social beliefs, for example, that tanning is synonymous with beauty.

How to overcome existing myths?

To begin with, it is important to clarify that the sun produces two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB rays, and the best thing to do is to use a sunscreen that protects us from both types of radiation, ideally with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30.

SPF indicates the measure of UV blocking. It is calculated as the ratio of the amount of radiation needed to burn the skin with sun protection to the amount needed to burn the skin without protection. This means that an SPF 50 protects the skin 50 times more of the UV radiation needed to burn it without protection, an SPF 30 protects it 30 times more, and so on.

When the UV index (which measures the intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation) is equal to or greater than 3, it is advisable to apply 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimetre of skin, which is equivalent to half a teaspoon for the face and neck together and a tablespoon for the forehead, back, arms and legs. In addition, it should be applied about 15 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to dry and adhere to the skin. Afterward, it should be reapplied every two hours or every hour if you swim or sweat a lot. In short, it is recommended to use a large amount of sunscreen and to apply it very often.

Also, let’s not forget that sun protection should be used regardless of skin tone. Although skin cancer is much more common in the white population, the mortality rate is usually higher in people with a dark skin tone because it is diagnosed much later.

Sunscreens, whether chemical or mineral, never completely block sun exposure, which means that some UV rays will pass through anyway, allowing people to obtain vitamin D.

Finally, it is important to note that the use of sunscreen should not be applied to prolong the time we are exposed to the sun.

Beyond sunscreen, what can we do to protect ourselves from the sun?

Sunscreen helps us to avoid chronic burns that can lead to the development of skin cancer, but it should not be the only method of protection against solar radiation, but something that complements two other important practices: seeking shade and avoiding exposure to the sun at peak hours. In addition, you can always look for complementary aids such as wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirts, or other types of fabrics that cover more of the skin exposed to the sun.

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