Do you believe these common sunscreen myths?

A skin cancer specialist sets the record straight.

Australians love the great outdoors, particularly when the warmer weather rolls in. We’re all about lying in the sunshine and getting up only when and if the ocean beckons.

When we’re not by the seaside you can find us in the park, or in the courtyard of our local coffee shop or playing a casual game of something with our mates. Bottom line – if it’s daytime we tend to be doing stuff that exposes our skin to the sun.

That’s cool. Research shows that we all need a little vitamin D for optimal health which means sunlight. But that very same research shows the amount we need is roughly 10 to 20 minutes and the vast majority of bronzed Aussies are taking in much more than that. 

Elyse Knowles
Bikini babe and face of Seafolly Elyse Knowles. (Image: Instagram/@Elyse.Knowles)

There’s a couple of reasons for that too. Some of us just refuse to pay attention to health warnings. But many others are confused about what healthy sun exposure looks like and also, have fallen for false information. In fact, there are three common falsehoods about sun protection that refuse to go away, says skin cancer specialist Dr Scott McGregor.

But Dr McGregor, the co-founder of the sunscreen brand We Are Feel Good Inc, is determined to see that change.

How does he plan to do that? Well, he’s going to address those sunscreen falsehoods right here, right now. So here goes.

Myth  – You only need to wear sunscreen if you’ll be outdoors all day long.

Fact – Sunscreen should be worn every single no day no matter what.

“Sunscreen doesn’t just protect you from getting sun burn,” says Dr McGregor.

“It also protects against premature skin ageing. Approximately 90 per cent of skin ageing is caused by the sun, so it’s extremely important to properly protect your skin every day.

“I always highly recommend wearing a quality SPF 50+ daily. It provides the highest level of protection from the suns harsh UV rays.”

Elle Macpherson
The world’s most famous beach body – Elle Macpherson. (Image: Instagram/@Ellemacphersonofficial)

Myth – A tan will protect you from sun damage.

Fact – A tan will protect you from nothing.

Another falsehood. The truth is any skin, tanned or not, is at risk to sun damage including sun spots, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, cancer and melanomas.

This is because a tan is the body’s response to sun exposure and no tan should be considered healthy. In fact, a tan actually IS sun damage.

“Your skin tans when dangerous UV rays penetrate the skin and your body produces melanin in an attempt to deflect the rays,” says Dr McGregor.

“Tanned skin basically means damage at a DNA level to your skin. The same goes for naturally darker-skinned people. Whilst they have more melanin they are still at risk of sun damage and skin cancer.”

Elyse Knowles
All the fun, all the sun but always sunscreen for Elyse Knowles. (Image: Instagram/@Elyse.Knowles)

Myth – I can’t wear sunscreen because it irritates my skin.

Fact – There’s a product out there that’s just right for you. Find it.

There is a common misconception that sunscreen creates skin reactions and redness, says Dr McGregor.

But if this happens, it is generally not due to the sunscreen itself but the preservatives or fragrances used within the product, he adds.

All you need to do is look for a sunscreen free from synthetic preservatives and one with a fragrance-free option if you suffer from sensitive skin.

Elyse Knowles
Model Elyse Knowles is all about the sunscreen. (Image: Instagram/@Elyse.Knowles)

One last word of advice, this time from Cancer Council Australia.

Sunscreen should never be used as the only line of defence against sun damage. It is also important to remember that sunburn is caused by UV radiation, which is not related to temperature. Whenever the UV Index is 3 or above, be sure to:
Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible – this offers the best protection.
Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen.
Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
Seek shade.
Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.

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