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“I look forward to my summer tan because that’s when I look healthiest.” Myth or fact -- a tan is a result of a healthy complexion? MYTH. Actually, a tan is the first sign that the skin has been damaged by Ultraviolet rays (UV rays). This is just one of the many dangerous misconceptions that sun worshipers have about tanning and skin protection.
According to Andrew Kaufman, MD, member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, “There are many common misunderstandings about tanning and proper summer skin care and it’s important that people have the proper education when it comes to their skin. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable diseases if consumers take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the sun.”
Below, Dr. Kaufman debunks the most common myths related to tanning and sun exposure.
“Sunscreen containing at least SPF 30 and broad spectrum protection will help defend against UV rays.”
Fact - When choosing a sunscreen, look for labels that specify broad spectrum, which not only protects against the most common UV B rays, but will protect skin from harmful UV A rays. Unlike UV B rays, UV A rays can pass through windows and are able to penetrate deeper into the skin causing wrinkles and may lead to skin cancer.
“A cotton t-shirt at the beach will protect skin from sun burn.”
Myth - Cotton t-shirts provide the equivalent protection of SPF 6, which is below the recommended limit. Even worse, when t-shirts are worn wet, protection decreases more to SPF 3, allowing dangerous UV rays to penetrate through the shirt to the skin. Be sure to apply sunscreen first and don’t rely solely on a t-shirt for sun protection.
“Clothing with SPF protects my skin from UV rays.”
Fact - Fashion and sun protection are now working together. Some clothing lines are being made with a SPF of 15 or 30 for added sun protection. In addition, laundry detergents are available that block 96% of harmful UV rays when added to a wash cycle.
“Skin cancer only affects older adults.”
Myth - Young people are just as much at risk for skin cancer than older adults. Due to overexposure to the sun and use of tanning beds in their teenage years, melanoma is the second most common cancer in women ages 20-29.*
“It’s cloudy, I don’t have to wear sunscreen.”
Myth - Even on the cloudiest day sunscreen is necessary. Clouds only filter 20% of UV rays, which means 80% are still penetrating the skin. Therefore, it is always best to apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before any sun exposure, no matter what the weatherman says.
*National Cancer Institute