Don’t Believe These Eight Sunburn Myths

Any reader of my blog posts knows very well how much I stress the importance of sun protection.  I don’t think I stress enough how vital it is to protect yourself from the sun, beginning with wearing sunscreen every day.

However, there are persistent myths about sunburns and the potential long term damage they leave in their wake that need to be addressed, especially in this summer season.  I have some of the big ones listed here in no particular order:

1.)  My makeup has SPF, so I don’t have to worry about sunburns.

Wrong.  Many cosmetics now have some sun protection built in.  However, the majority provide an SPF of only 15 or so, which is not sufficient protection against the sun, especially on the face.  You still need the extra layer of protection from  sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater.

2.)  Diet changes can prevent sunburn.

Wrong. While some foods that have high levels of niacin, such as turkey, tuna fish, avocados, and mushrooms, theoretically reduce sun sensitivity, no diet alone will really protect you from sun damage.  Eat what you want, but you still need to apply your sunscreen.

3.)  You can’t burn on a cloudy day.

Wrong.  When I say, “Wear sunscreen every day,” I’m not saying it for nothing.

Ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate clouds, so you can definitely receive sun damage especially on cloudy days.  That’s why we recommend sunscreen every day regardless of the weather forecast.

4.)  You can’t get a sunburn if you aren’t outside.

Wrong.  Unless you are in a building with no windows, or your windows or auto glass are treated or tinted to block UV rays, you can still get sun damage even while inside your home, office, or car.

In fact, most Americans tend to have more sun damage on the left side of their faces, arms, and hands due to sun exposure while driving.  If you know what the main difference is between American cars and British cars, you can probably figure out why most British, Irish, and Australian drivers tend to have more sun damage on their right sides.

5.)  If I use a higher SPF, I don’t need to reapply.

Wrong.  If you use a SPF of 100 for example, you can stay out longer before reapplying,but you still need to eventually reapply.  At an SPF 100 level, you should still reapply every 2 hours.

6.)  Tanning beds are a safer way to get color because you can’t burn.

Wrong on several levels!  First, no tan is safe unless it is a spray tan or bronzing lotion.  Second, if you stay in a tanning bed long enough, you will burn.

7.)  A base tan will protect me from sunburns.

Wrong.  This is a very common myth and has been studied extensively.  Having a tan is the equivalent of a SPF of 3-4, which is insufficient protection from the sun to alone prevent a sunburn.

8.)  An occasional sunburn is OK.

Wrong.  Every sun exposure in your life, including every sunburn, increases your lifetime risk of skin cancer and adds to your cumulative photoaging.


If you see any myths on this list that you still believe, I hope I have changed your mind.  If your family or friends actually say any of these myths to you or anyone around you, please inform them otherwise.  You can also forward them this blog post.

If I haven’t stressed it enough already (and I don’t believe I have), remember this: Wear your sunscreen every day while you are out enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

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