Myths About the Sun & Your Skin

Spending numerous hours in the sun is an activity that many of us enjoy. However, the rates of melanoma cases are increasing, so it is important to keep in mind the truth about the sun. Choosing to educate ourselves on the greatest myths involving the sun may potentially help avoid serious skin damage and maybe even cases of skin cancer. Below are 8 common myths associated with the sun.

‘When it is hottest outdoors, the sun is the strongest’

Many individuals believe UV rays and heat to be the same thing. However, these components are delivered to the earth in entirely different proportions. Heat is administered through infrared rays, which do not cause harm to the human skin. UV rays, which are located on the opposite side of the electromagnetic spectrum are what provoke skin damage. In this case, it is safe to say that temperature does not determine the level of risk of sunburn.

UV Rays pose the greatest risk to our skin when the sun is highest in the sky. This takes effect in the middle of the day from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Even though UV Rays are strongest in the summer and spring months, it is important to take proper precautions during winter days as well.  Even though damaging UV rays cannot be felt, they are still present on cold days.

Recognizing and understanding the difference between UV rays and heat is important to protect yourself against the harsh UV index and the times of day when you are at greater risk. 

‘You can only burn during summertime’

As previously stated, the heat generated from the sun is not a direct correlation to the level of UV your skin is receiving. Due to this, it is important to check your local weather forecast to determine the UV index. This indicates the strength of the sun during particular times of the day. Generally, the UV index is greatest during summer months, but winter months have shown dangerous levels. If the UV index is 3 or above, it is important to use sunblock protection.

‘Occasional sunburns don’t make much of a difference’

Many people believe that getting a sunburn every so often poses no great risk. However, statistics show that your risk of melanoma can triple with only two sunburns a year. Although getting a sunburn does not mean that you will get skin cancer, it is significant to understand the increased risk.

‘Sun damage always appears red in color and peels’

For individuals with fair skin, the presence of sunburned skin is more obvious. Generally, a sunburn appears red or pink. However, this is more difficult to see with tan or dark skin. Other symptoms that typically accompany a sunburn are itchy, tender, or irritated skin.

‘Sunscreen higher in SPF is better than lower SPF’

Sunscreen with SPF 15 and higher have been shown to reduce an individual’s risk of melanoma. However, discrepancies still lie among sunscreens that offer a higher SPF. High SPF products may pose greater health risks as they require a higher concentration of sun-filtering chemicals than lower SPF products. When applied, these chemicals penetrate the skin and have been linked to hormone disruption and tissue damage. Additionally, individuals who choose to apply a higher SPF tend to spend more extended time in the sun. 

‘Applying sunscreen one time is enough’

It is vital to know that applying sunscreen a single time is not enough. Over time sunscreen can rub off through contact with water or even sweat. There is a good chance you missed certain areas of your body the first time you applied sunscreen, so applying multiple times is essential for this reason. With that being said, when it comes to sunscreen- don’t be shy!

‘Sunscreen doesn’t expire’

Sunscreen products do expire. Many brands offer expiration dates, while others provide the number of months the product should be used after opening. Generally, this factor is not usually considered when getting ready for a day in the sun. However, just like many other cosmetics, sunscreen can go bad and should be kept in a cool environment.

‘You can’t get sun damage through glass’

Believe it or not – sitting in your vehicle or close to a window with direct sunlight has the potential to cause damage to your skin. In this case, it is beneficial to protect your skin by wearing clothes or sunblock.

It is essential to perform skin checks on yourself regularly and visit a professional at least once a year. Dr. Gurgen is a dermatologist in The Villages and Leesburg, Florida, specializing in skin care treatment and Mohs Surgery. If you notice changes to your skin or if it is time for your annual skin check, contact our office for an appointment.