7 Sunscreen Myths Debunked by Beauty Scientists

With temperatures steadily rising across the United States, many people are adding this seasonal must-have to their daily skincare routines and vacation packing lists: sunscreens.

Whether it’s using a daily moisturizer and lip balm with SPF or applying a sunscreen head-to-toe before laying poolside, there are a few common misconceptions about sunscreen products that all consumers should know to help them maintain healthy and safe sun habits all year long.

Myth 1: Sunscreens are just for the summer.

This is a big myth. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sunscreen should be worn every day if you will be outside because even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin.

Myth 2: New research says that sunscreens are unsafe.

Recently, there’s been some unfortunate confusion about the safety of sunscreens and some sunscreen ingredients. We know from a diverse body of research that sunscreens are critical to protecting your skin from sun damage and reducing the risk of skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even mentions that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently mentioned in a new journal article on sunscreens that the results of the Agency’s study should not cause anyone to refrain from using sunscreen. We and groups like the American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and many others agree.

Myth 3: I only need to apply sunscreens once, right before going outside.

False! It’s really important to reapply sunscreen, especially after swimming or sweating. CDC recommends reapplying sunscreen if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

Myth 4: I should apply sunscreen after I finish my morning skincare routine.

A number of medical professionals recommend using a broad spectrum sunscreen product with SPF 30 or higher, for example a daily moisturizer with SPF to streamline your skin routine. This type of daily moisturizer can be applied underneath your makeup, for many cosmetics companies develop products with sunscreens for incidental, daily sun exposure. For beach use/recreational use, sunscreens are recommended to be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours.

Myth 5: Sunscreens are bad for the environment.

There’s been a bit of conversation and confusion about the impact of sunscreen on the coral reef, specifically. Coral reef degradation is an important environmental issue that we all take very seriously. The causes for coral bleaching have been addressed by scientists around the world who say that it can primarily be attributed to pollution, climate change and overfishing.

Myth 6: Sunscreens are only important for those with fairer skin tones.

Not True! Everyone, regardless of their skin type should make sunscreens a part of their daily skin protection routine. Skin cancer isn’t discriminatory—many skin cancers are linked to UV radiation and protection from the sun is important to avoid skin damage. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to prevent sunburn, reduce the signs of aging on your skin and reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

Myth 7: Sunscreens are the only way to protect your body from the sun.

Wearing sunscreen—and reapplying every two hours after swimming or sweating—is just one very important part of a safe sun regimen. Other ways that you can protect yourself from the sun include:

  • Avoiding the sun during the peak hours of 10am – 4pm
  • Wearing sun protective clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV protective sunglasses
  • Using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, even on cloudy days
  • Seeing your health care professional every year for a skin exam

We have additional information about the science and safety of sunscreens here on CosmeticsInfo.org.

We also encourage you to visit the following websites: