Date 18.04.2023

Suncream 101: Commons Myths and Mistakes

Using suncream on a beach

Summer, warm weather and a nice beach day are just around the corner; however, protecting the skin against the sun’s harsh UV rays is extremely important to our overall health and wellbeing. Not only does proper skin protection minimise signs of aging, but it is extremely important for preventing skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, experiencing five or more sunburns can double your risk of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. Using a suncream with an SPF of 15 or higher daily, however, can reduce that risk by 50%. 

There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) light that can affect exposed skin that suncreams aim to protect the skin from. UVA has longer wavelengths and can penetrate the thickest layer of skin, the dermis. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays can lead to skin aging, wrinkles and a suppressed immune system. UVB has shorter wavelengths and causes sunburn, which is when the top layer of skin is burned. Unprotected exposure to UVB can lead to skin cancer, and frequent burning can cause permanent damage over time. 

Often you will see advertisements for mineral suncreams and chemical suncreams, and there is a noticeable difference between the two. Mineral suncreams are more recommended than chemical because they are physical suncreams and are less irritating and more moisturising than chemical suncreams. Chemical suncreams, on the other hand, absorb the UV rays and convert the rays into heat in the body. Overall, the most recommended type of suncream is a broad-spectrum, water-resistant, SPF of 30 or higher suncream with ingredients like zinc and titanium.

At healf, we believe that proper skin protection is extremely important to overall health and wellbeing. Getting outside and soaking in the sun should not be compromised by the potential risks of UV rays. We have put together a list of common myths and mistakes that people often make about suncream so that you can get the most out of your summer.

Common myths about suncream that are completely untrue

Here is a list of suncream myths that we have debunked that we think you should consider before making your next suncream purchase or before you plan your next beach trip.

You do not need to apply suncream every day

Even on days you are not planning to be outside all day or are not on holiday, you should still apply suncream to your skin. Even on an overcast day, the skin can still be affected by UV rays as 80% of UV rays still penetrate your skin on a cloudy day. 

UV light is still harmful to exposed skin, no matter how much of your skin is exposed. Lower arms and your face are the most common areas of exposed skin, so it is important to use some sort of coverage whether it is applying suncream or wearing a hat.

Suncream prevents the body from absorbing vitamin D

A lot of people believe that using suncream to block UV rays will prevent them from getting their proper levels of Vitamin D for the day. Although suncream does block UV rays, sunlight can still penetrate clothing, and skin that has suncream applied to it will wear off throughout the day so you will still get your source of vitamin D. In fact, you only need 5-30 minutes of sun exposure a day to get your proper amount of vitamin D.

You cannot tan while wearing suncream

A tan is the body’s natural protection to UV exposure and still occurs even while wearing suncream. Suncream helps protect the body from UV rays, but it cannot protect the body completely, so your body will still naturally tan underneath the suncream.

You only need to apply suncream once during the day

Suncream does not last all day and should be reapplied every 2-4 hours. Over time the suncream on your skin will start to break down and lose its effectiveness quicker than you may think. If you are in water frequently or sweat a lot, you need to reapply even more often.

Suncream can be completely waterproof

There is no suncream that is 100% waterproof. Even though some suncreams may be labeled as water-resistant or sweat-resistant, they only maintain their SPF for up to 80 minutes. You need to reapply suncreams after water exposure and allow it to settle on the skin for at least 10-15 minutes before going into water.

Suncream never expires

That suncream that you’ve had for years is most likely expired. Most people do not realize that suncream naturally expires and that the active ingredients break down over time. It is important to check the expiration date of your suncream as using expired sunblock will leave the skin unprotected.

Common mistakes when applying suncream

Applying suncream may seem like a chore when all you want to do is go outside and run into the ocean, but taking time to properly apply suncream will significantly reduce the chances of aging signs and skin cancer. Here are a few common mistakes you may be making when applying suncream.

Applying suncream too late

You need to apply suncream at least 20 minutes before stepping outdoors because your skin needs time to properly absorb the protective ingredients in the sun cream. Instead of waiting to apply suncream when you are already at the beach, make sure to apply beforehand and apply as evenly as possible before getting dressed to avoid missing any spots.

Applying too little suncream

Most people apply too little suncream to their skin overall. A small drop of suncream is not nearly enough for proper coverage. For beach days, it is recommended to coat your body with at least 1 ounce (a shot glass full) of suncream to the skin. For your face, you should apply a coin-size amount.

Miss important areas when applying

The most common areas people miss are the ears, scalp, eyelids, lips, feet, neck and chest. A study found that nearly 20% of participants did not apply suncream to their eyelids. This is important because the skin on the eyelid has the highest incidence of skin cancer per unit area.

Lips are also another often missed area, and it is recommended to wear a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 15 or higher. You should also avoid wearing lip gloss without any additional coverage as UV rays will penetrate the skin the more hydrated your lips are.

Not rubbing in suncream sprays

Sprays are a well-known alternative to lotions and creams as it is easier to apply and is lighter weight, but people often make the mistake of not rubbing it into the skin properly or at all. Once you spray the suncream onto your skin, you need to rub it in so that it can become a proper barrier to the UV rays. If you are spraying when it is windy outside, you should be extra careful when applying it to your skin as you may not be applying to all of your skin.

Conclusion

Although summer is normally the time people apply suncream, it really should be applied to the skin every day no matter the season. When summertime does come around the corner, however, it is important to avoid the common mistakes that we have listed above. Sunburns are more dangerous to our overall health than we may realise, and so it is important to properly apply suncream to minimise skin damage and harm.

If you are looking for a new high protection formulated suncream to try, here are a few products we recommend:

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