Here are a few common sunscreen myths:
1. Sunscreen sprays offer better protection than lotions: FALSE. Sprays can be convenient but it’s easy to miss or skip exposed areas. It helps to apply to your hands first and then to exposed areas. To minimize inhaling, apply only while outdoors and never directly on the face.
2. Kids need special sunscreens: FALSE. The same ingredients are present in children’s products as in those marketed to adults. The difference is packaging! The same sunscreen can be used for the entire family. Sunscreens should be used starting at 6 months of age.
3. A little bit goes a long way. FALSE. Studies have demonstrated that most people apply less than the recommended amount significantly reducing the effectiveness of the sunscreen. For this reason, applying a sunscreen with a higher SPF value may help compensate. The general guidelines include the “teaspoon rule” for each exposed body part or a shot glass for the entire exposed body (see last months blog for details).
4. The SPF value noted on the product label is reliable: FALSE. Consumer Reports recently reported that most of the sunscreens they tested offered significant protection, however, they didn’t have as high an SPF as promoted.
5. Doubling the SPF of a sunscreen doubles the protection. FALSE. When applied properly, sunscreens with SPF values of 30, 50, and 100 convey 97%, 98%, and 99% protection from UVB rays. For those with very fair complexions, certain photosensitizing conditions, taking photosensitizing medications, or spending significant time outdoors, the difference can be significant.