Fact or Fiction: the Sun is Bad for Me?

Sun damage

Summer is one of the best times of the year; warm weather tends to improve one’s mood greatly. But is what we have been taught growing up true – is the sun really bad for you? Whether you have fair skin or dark skin, thinking about sun exposure is a good idea because you don’t want to get burned or get heat stroke. We break down the game of ‘good-bad-good’ about the sun:

Myth: a base tan protects you
A tan is your body’s reaction to UV exposure, which is what produces melanin, the pigment that colours your skin. Getting a tan is a sign that damage has already been done. In fact, having already tan skin only provides the SPF equivalent of about a 4, which is not high enough to prevent against any further damage.

Myth: I have dark skin, so I don’t need to worry
Many people with darker skin will have a lower risk of skin cancer, but they are not immune. Darker skin can also burn, it just takes more heat to do it. Although very dark skin has a natural SPF, sunscreen should always be worn. As well, since things like very tanned skin are harder to pinpoint in darker complexions, skin cancer can also be harder to diagnose.

Myth: as long as I protect my face, it’s okay
Skin cancer isn’t limited to just your face, and you can get it on your arms, legs, back feet and chest. Make sure to apply sunscreen everywhere, since signs of aging can also be accelerated to improper exposure to the sun.

Myth: anything above SPF 15 is a waste
The number beside an SPF indicates how long it would take you to sunburn if you were not wearing any sunscreen at all. As well, SPF 30 is not necessarily twice as good as an SPF 30. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays. That being said, sunscreen is only as effective as how well you apply it. Sunscreen must be applied liberally at least 30 minutes prior to initial exposure, and then reapplied every two hours or so, and especially after getting wet or sweating.

Myth: I don’t need sunscreen if it’s not ‘peak’ tanning hours
The likelihood of burning is greatest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is directly overhead. Although this is considered to be peak hours, tanning at any hour of the day isn’t safe. Although UVB rays peak mid-day, UVA rays, which contribute to aging and some skin cancers, are present all day long. Even on cloudy days, the UV rays are still present; clouds block infrared rays, so you don’t feel hot, but they only block 20% of UV rays, so you can still get burned.

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