There are a lot of claims about sunscreen. Here’s what you should know…

Sunscreen is a crucial component of skincare, especially when it comes to protecting against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, misconceptions abound regarding its use, efficacy, and safety. This article aims to clarify these misunderstandings by separating facts from myths about sunscreen.

Fact: Sunscreen Protects Against Skin Cancer

One of the primary benefits of sunscreen is its ability to protect against skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form. Regular use of sunscreen with broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection significantly reduces the risk of developing skin cancers by shielding the skin from harmful UV rays.

Myth: Sunscreen is Only Necessary on Sunny Days

A common misconception is that sunscreen is only necessary on sunny days. In reality, UV rays penetrate clouds and can cause skin damage even on overcast days. Therefore, dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen daily, regardless of the weather, to ensure consistent protection.

Fact: SPF Matters

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. Higher SPF numbers indicate more protection. For everyday use, an SPF of 30 is generally recommended, providing sufficient protection when applied correctly. For prolonged outdoor activities, a higher SPF may be beneficial.

Myth: Darker Skin Doesn’t Need Sunscreen

While darker skin has more melanin, providing some natural protection against UV rays, it does not eliminate the risk of skin damage or skin cancer. People with darker skin tones can still suffer from sunburn, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancers. Thus, sunscreen use is essential for everyone, regardless of skin tone.

Fact: Reapplication is Crucial

Sunscreen’s effectiveness diminishes over time, particularly when swimming, sweating, or wiping the skin. To maintain protection, it is essential to reapply sunscreen every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating. This ensures continuous coverage and effectiveness.

Myth: Sunscreen Causes Vitamin D Deficiency

Some worry that using sunscreen may lead to vitamin D deficiency by blocking UVB rays, which are necessary for vitamin D synthesis. However, studies show that regular sunscreen use does not significantly impact vitamin D levels. Brief, incidental sun exposure is typically sufficient for most people to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. For those concerned about deficiency, dietary sources and supplements are viable alternatives.

Fact: Sunscreen Ingredients Are Generally Safe

Concerns about the safety of sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone, have been raised. While research is ongoing, current evidence indicates that sunscreens on the market are safe when used as directed. The benefits of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer and other UV-related damage far outweigh the potential risks. For those with sensitive skin or concerns about specific ingredients, mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are excellent alternatives.

Myth: One Application Lasts All Day

Applying sunscreen once in the morning is not enough for all-day protection. Sunscreen wears off due to sweating, swimming, and natural breakdown from exposure to sunlight. To ensure effective protection, reapply every two hours and after any activity that might remove it from the skin.

Fact: Sunscreen Is Essential for All Ages

Sunscreen use is crucial for all ages, including children and the elderly. Children’s skin is more sensitive to UV damage, making protection imperative. For older adults, who may have accumulated sun damage over the years, continued use of sunscreen helps prevent further damage and reduces the risk of skin cancer.

Myth: Higher SPF Sunscreens Are Always Better

While higher SPF sunscreens offer more protection, the increase in protection is incremental beyond SPF 50. For instance, SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks about 98%. The key is proper and regular application rather than solely relying on a high SPF.


Sunscreen is a vital tool in the fight against skin cancer and premature aging caused by UV exposure. Dispelling common myths and understanding the facts about sunscreen can help individuals make informed decisions and use sunscreen effectively. Remember to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, apply it generously, and reapply regularly to ensure optimal protection for your skin.