"The highest SPF rating is the best. I work in an office, I don’t need sunscreen! Sunscreen gives you acne."
We’re on a myth-busting mission to clear up some of these common misconceptions, and more, about sunscreen!
The Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays
Before we get to busting SPF myths, here’s a quick rundown of how the sun’s UVB and UVA rays affect your skin.
UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburn to the surface of the skin, resulting in visible redness. UVB rays also play the greatest role in causing skin cancers.
UVA rays have longer wavelengths, giving them the ability to penetrate deeper than UVB.
They reach far enough into the skin to damage collagen. Skin loses elasticity and firmness which speeds up the visible signs of ageing like wrinkles and sagging.
UVA also causes sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and the shortest wavelengths of UVA contribute to the visible appearance of sunburn.
Of the two rays, UVA is responsible for most of the premature signs of ageing.
Now you’ve got a handle on how UVA and UVB rays work, let’s bust some of the big myths about SPF.
Myth - A High SPF Rating Means Your Skin Is Protected
You may be surprised to discover the SPF protection rating on your sunscreen only measures the protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays.
That’s right. Sunscreen can have a high SPF rating and do a great job of protecting your skin against sunburn (UVB), but still leave you exposed to the damage of UVA!
Don’t make your sunscreen selection based only on the SPF rating - choose a sunscreen that is broad spectrum, too. Broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Myth: You Only Need 1 Application Of The Highest SPF
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number that follows SPF is a guide to how long the sun’s UVB rays will take to burn your skin while wearing the sunscreen compared to if you weren’t wearing any at all.
For example, if you were using sunscreen with SPF30, it would take you an estimated 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing it.
The problem is, high SPF ratings can create a false sense of security. You may think 1 application of SPF 50 is enough for the day and not worry about reapplying or putting on a hat.
Relying on just a single application of SPF, no matter how high, can still leave your skin exposed to long term damage.
Every sunscreen, whether it’s SPF 30 or SPF 100 should be reapplied every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Myth: If You Work In An Office, You Don’t Need Sunscreen
Spend a lot of time indoors? Doesn’t mean you should skip your daily sunscreen application.
All exposure to sunlight - whether it’s walking around outside on your lunch break or sitting close to the office windows - has the potential to accelerate signs of ageing.
Typical car, home, and office windows block most UVB rays but some UVA rays can still penetrate glass. You might not see the signs of sunburn but that doesn’t mean your skin isn’t affected.
You’ll do your skin a big favour by wearing sunscreen every day, even if you spend a lot of time indoors.
Myth: Sunscreen Will Make You Breakout
If you’re shying away from sunscreen in fear it will clog your pores and cause breakouts, consider this myth busted!
While some SPF creams can be heavy, greasy, and packed with oil (a nightmare for oily skin) many sunscreens are non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores.
Not all oils are bad in sunscreen either - some are very beneficial. We use carrot root oil in our Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen SPF30 to help tone and tighten skin! Steer clear of mineral oils though, as they can easily cause congestion.
Look for formulations that are lightweight and non-comedogenic.
Myth: Mineral Sunscreen Isn’t As Effective As Chemical Sunscreen
Sunscreen falls into 2 categories “mineral” (also called “natural” or “physical” sunscreen) and “chemical”.
Both protect your skin but do so in different ways.
Chemical sunscreen penetrates the top layers of the skin. It absorbs and filters UV rays before they have the chance to cause damage.
Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, forms a protective barrier on the skin’s surface. Rather than absorbing and filtering UV, it helps scatter and reflect rays away from the skin.
A common misconception is that chemical sunscreen is always more effective than mineral sunscreen.
This isn’t the case. Mineral sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both as natural active ingredients provide excellent broad spectrum protection.
Myth: A higher SPF Rating Dramatically Increases Protection
SPF ratings can vary dramatically between sunscreens - but does it make a big difference to the amount of protection? The breakdown is as follows:
- SPF 4 blocks 75% of UVB rays
- SPF 8 blocks 87.5% of UVB rays
- SPF 15 blocks 93.3% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 96.7% of UVB rays and
- SPF 50 blocks approximately 98% of UVB rays
Source arpanasa (Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Agency)
SunSmart recommends choosing a sunscreen labelled SPF30 or higher that is also broad-spectrum.
Myth: You Only Need Sunscreen When It’s Sunny Outside
This is one of the biggest, and most harmful, myths about sunscreen! It’s not safe to skip your daily dose of SPF because it’s cloudy and cool outside.
Just because you can’t feel the warmth or burn on your skin, it doesn’t mean UV rays aren’t active. It’s been estimated up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate clouds. Even on an overcast day, your skin can be susceptible to damage if you’re not wearing sunscreen.
The free SunSmart app is a handy way to see UV levels and the potential risk of UV on a daily basis around Australia.
Protect Your Skin All Day, Every Day
How does your current sun protection measure up? We recommend trying our Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen SPF 30.
A broad-spectrum SPF 30 enriched with antioxidants, this silky smooth, daily sunscreen protects against UV damage helping fight the first signs of ageing. Comfortable, non-greasy SPF coverage for all skin types, especially sensitive skin.
Skin Shield Natural Face Sunscreen is easy-to-apply and formulated with additional anti-ageing benefits of carrot root oil, hyaluronic acid, and green tea for hydrated, smoother skin.