20 Truths and Myths You Need to Know About Sunscreen

Starting with how long sunscreen lasts!

20 Truths and Myths You Need to Know About Sunscreen
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With so many misnomers floating around about the how, what, when and where when it comes to applying SPF, learn the real must-dos for safeguarding your skin from the sun's rays all year long.

1 of 20
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MYTH: Apply sunscreen every two hours.

TRUTH: While you should reapply every two hours, also remember that swimming and sweating makes SPF sooner. Pay attention to the water resistance time listed on the bottle (it will be either 40 or 80 minutes) and reapply as necessary.

Get the GolfHr Beauty Lab's top sunscreen picks for summer »

2 of 20
applying sunscreen
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MYTH: Just coat your skin, and you're covered.

TRUTH: A thin, quick coat just won't do the job. Most people apply only 25-50% of what they need, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Rub on a shot-size glass amount (one ounce) on exposed areas of your body.

How to sun-proof your hair »

3 of 20
towel and sunscreen
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MYTH: Many women are allergic to sunscreen.

TRUTH: Your skin can probably tolerate it. Researchers have found that very few people who think they're allergic actually are. If your skin stings after application, try a new brand with different ingredients.

Common reasons why your skin may be irritated »

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MYTH: Sunscreen may increase your risk of melanoma.

TRUTH: Slather it on. The fear was that wearing SPF would make people think they could spend more time in the sun, ultimately upping their risk of sunburn and skin cancer. But an found that those who wore a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 16 daily developed half as many melanomas over a 10-year period compared to people who wore it only occasionally.

One woman's melanoma story »

5 of 20
sun on beach
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MYTH: If your childhood was spent in the sun, the damage is done.

TRUTH: That Australian study we just told you about? The daily sunscreen wearers were 25 to 75 years old when they started the habit, and they still decreased their skin cancer odds. The lesson: It's never too late.

6 of 20
sunscreen on sand
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MYTH: SPF 100 means you're protected 100%.

TRUTH: No sunscreen can offer you 100% protection. SPF 30 blocks 97% of rays, and SPF 50 limits 98%. The numbers aren't cumulative either. An SPF 15 facial moisturizer + SPF 15 sunblock doesn't equal 30 — it still is 15.

How to choose sunscreen for your kids »

7 of 20
cloudy beach
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MYTH: If it's cloudy, you don't need as much sunscreen.

TRUTH: Just because the sun is hiding behind the clouds doesn't mean it's not there. Up to 80% of UV rays to your skin. You can still burn, so treat it like any other sunny day and wear the SPF.

8 of 20
office lights
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MYTH: You don't need sunscreen indoors.

TRUTH: In a on human skin cells, scientists found that compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) emitted enough UVA radiation (the type of rays linked to skin aging) to cause damage. A follow-up study from the same found that LED lighting was safe for skin. Still, no matter what you have on the calendar, use that SPF.

More ways to stay healthy at work »

9 of 20
powder makup
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MYTH: Makeup with SPF is the only protection you need.

Truth: Loose powders, tinted moisturizers and BB creams, and foundation typically don't contain a high enough level of sunscreen, and you may not put on enough to make a difference. For the best protection, look for "broad spectrum" SPF 30 on the label.

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10 of 20
suitcase and sunscreen
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MYTH: Getting a base tan will protect your skin.

TRUTH: You're headed for a sunny vacation and heard that tanning first protects against burns. However, though a base tan may offer some sun protection, it's only like wearing an SPF 3 or 4, points out. Applying SPF 30 is a much better safeguard.

11 of 20
sunscreen and bag
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MYTH: Sunscreen is toxic.

TRUTH: You may have heard that some of the active ingredients in certain sunscreens can pose a threat to your health. If you're hesitant to apply SPF in fear that it's doing more harm than good, we can put that rumor to rest. "No published studies show that sunscreen is toxic to humans or hazardous to human health," says the AAD.

12 of 20
MYTH: Store sunscreen in the car for on-the-go use.

TRUTH: Because sunscreen ingredients can break down in the sun, the suggests keeping the products out of direct sun and away from excessive heat. Take them out of the car with you; when you're on the beach, keep it in the shade or stash in a cooler.

13 of 20
MYTH: When you get to the beach, rub yourself down in SPF.

TRUTH: A better idea is to slather it on 30 minutes before sun exposure, says the . It takes that long for the ingredients to activate and begin fully protecting skin. (Of course, if you forget, apply it ASAP. It's still worth it.)

14 of 20
online app
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MYTH: Pick a sunscreen by online popularity ratings.

TRUTH: In a , 40% of highly rated online products didn't meet current sunscreen guidelines. Look for three things on the : broad spectrum, SPF 30 or higher and water resistant.

Check out the best sunscreens for summer »

15 of 20
MYTH: Using an umbrella means you don't need as much sunscreen.

TRUTH: One 2017 study in the journal found that after 3.5 hours of being on the beach, 78% of people who sat under an umbrella got a burn compared to just 25% who used sunscreen. SPF wins again!

Find a good beach umbrella »

16 of 20
MYTH: Sunscreen-bug repellent combos are okay.

TRUTH: Some formulas keep bugs and rays at bay, but use two separate products. You'll need to apply a greater amount of sunscreen more often than you would with bug spray, says the . If you need both, apply sunscreen first, then top with bug spray.

More ways to avoid mosquitoes »

17 of 20
MYTH: You can skip the sunscreen in the winter.

TRUTH: Snow can be blindingly bright because up to of UV rays can be reflected off its surface. And if you happen to be skiing, UV rays are even more intense in higher altitudes. Even when the temps get chilly, use a broad spectrum SPF 30.

18 of 20
MYTH: Spay sunscreens are as effective as lotions.

TRUTH: If the AAD had its choice, it would prefer you use a lotion or cream. Spray might be super convenient but it's difficult to know if you've used enough and covered your whole body. They suggest spraying it into your hands first and then smoothing it on.

19 of 20
MYTH: Sunscreen is all you need to protect against skin cancer.

TRUTH: UV rays are a formidable foe. That's why you need to safeguard your skin from all angles. Along with SPF, seek out shade, wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants (or at least a coverup), a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, advises the CDC.

20 of 20
sunglasses, hat, sunscreen
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MYTH: You don't burn, so you don't need sunscreen.

TRUTH: Though people with lighter skin may be more at risk for UV damage, everyone can get skin cancer. Both a tan and a burn is a sign of damage. Always wear sunscreen no matter what.

Hugh Jackman's skin cancer selfie »

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