Twelve sunscreen myths

14 December 2017

Proper use of sunscreen helps to guard against skin damage, skin cancer and sunburn - plus helps your skin look younger for longer.

But there are many myths about sunscreen.

Here we look at what's true - that's the only way we can then use sunscreen effectively and with peace of mind.

Myth 1
SPF 15 isn’t enough protection from the sun

Many people think that SPF 15 is less effective than SPF 30 or SPF 50.

But actually, SPF 15 gives similar sun protection as 'higher' SPFs when applied every two hours (as all sunscreens must be).

You may think if the SPF is ‘higher’ then your sun protection will equivalently rise too.

It doesn't.

An SPF 15 sunscreen will block around 93 percent of UVB rays at 180 minutes exposure. Doubling the SPF to 30 blocks 97 percent, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. That’s just a four and five percent increase - certainly not double the protection as we're led to believe. 

And all sunscreen must be reapplied at 120 minutes anyway.

The advantage of SPF 15 is that it doesn't have the double, triple and higher chemical loads of sunscreen active ingredients that SPF 30, SPF 50 etc contain.

    Myth 2
    Sunscreen stings, feels sticky, greasy, thick

    Yes it usually does feel just like that!

    However, when you use a nutrient rich sunscreen you can prevent sunburn and also be kind to your skin.

    Simplicite Great Outdoors Moisturiser with Sunscreen contains approved sunscreening agents as well as huge amounts of nutritive, healing, soothing plant extracts to balance the entire formula.

    See reviews for Simplicité moisturiser with sunscreen.

    Myth 3
    Zinc oxide sunscreens are not ‘chemical’ sunscreens.

    Zinc oxide sunscreens are indeed ‘chemical’ sunscreens. The chemical name for zinc oxide is ZnO, for titanium dioxide TiO2.

    Myth 4
    A 4-hour water-resistant sunscreen doesn’t need to be reapplied every two hours.

    Despite boasts of long-lasting water-resistance, all sunscreens must be reapplied every two hours and also as needed to maintain protection. This includes after swimming, perspiring heavily, or towelling off.

    Sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours and after swimming

    Myth 5
    ‘Absorber’ type sunscreens absorb rays into the skin.

    Some 'organic' sunscreen companies use scare tactics that aren't even accurate. Such as:

    "Zinc oxide is a mineral that does not dissolve into our sunscreens and does not absorb into your skin and we consider it to be significantly different than the synthetic sunscreen chemicals that only work by absorbing into your skin.
    …mineral-based sunscreens ingredients that reflect, rather than absorb, chemical UV rays."

    The truth is that 'absorber' sunscreens work by the cream absorbing UVA/UVB rays then reflecting these back into the atmosphere.

    This is explained in Live Science's How does sunscreen work? article:
    Along with inorganic chemicals, sunscreens often contain organic chemicals, with names such as avobenzone or oxybenzone. Instead of physically deflecting UV light, these molecules absorb UV radiation through their chemical bonds. As the bonds absorb UV radiation, the components of the sunscreen slowly break down and release heat.

    Sunscreens employ UV filters: molecules specifically designed to help reduce the amount of UV rays that reach through the skin surface. A film of these molecules forms a protective barrier either absorbing (chemical filters) or reflecting (physical blockers) UV photons before they can be absorbed by our DNA and other reactive molecules deeper in the skin.

    Myth 6
    You don’t need to apply sunscreen if you have a tan.

    A tan can offer very limited protection but no more than SPF4 (the lowest sunscreen rating), depending on skin type. A tan does not protect from DNA damage, which can lead to skin cancer.

    Myth 7
    Nanoparticles in sunscreen are dangerous, can penetrate the skin and get into the bloodstream.  

    The Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) which regulates sunscreens sold in Australia says this isn't true and that we shouldn't worry about nanoparticles.

    A 2013 literature review by the TGA into this subject concluded that studies had shown "nano-sized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide particles do not penetrate the underlying layers of skin, and that on current evidence neither … are likely to cause harm when used as ingredients in sunscreens."

    The reason that Simplicité avoids using nanoparticles in our sunscreen is that we believe these, as well as zinc oxide, can contribute to congestion in the top layers of skin.

    Myth 8
    Sun protection has triggered an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in Australia.

    Cancer Council Australia’s chief executive Dr Olver debunked this myth in an academic journal article he wrote, saying people who do the full "slip, slop, slap" when out in the sun will in most cases still get enough incidental sunlight for good health.

    Dr Olver says "the harms of sun exposure in Australia far outweigh the risks of vitamin D deficiency."


    Myth 9
    Ingredients commonly found in many sunscreens are linked to endocrine disruption which affects our hormones

    Customer email:
    "Oxbenzone/Benzophenone-3 in my much loved Simplicité sunscreen - I've been reading that this is a hormone disrupter according to these websites.
    https://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/benzophenone-3http://www.sarahwilson.com/2012/02/sunscreen/ "

    From naturopath and herbalist David Lyons: Good news about sunscreens! 
    We're all very conscious about using sunscreens, after all, 2000 Australians each year die from skin cancer and there are 2500 treatments each working day for skin cancers.

    The good news is there's no concern about using sunscreen on ourselves or for coral reefs (see Myth 10). The one study done on rats that showed BP-3/Oxybenzone is endocrine disrupting has been put into perspective by a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association (Dermatology). 

    To achieve the dose given to the rats in that study we'd have to apply it to our face arms, and neck every day for 277 years! (And leave every application on, never wash it off.)

    Also it was shown that BP-3/Oxybenzone has ONE MILLIONTH the oestrogen effect of human oestrogen.   

    The overwhelming amount of scientific evidence says all sunscreen ingredients are safe, which is why the ingredients Simplicité and other brands use are approved in the European Union, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, and many other countries.

    Myth 10
    Ingredients such as oxybenzone in absorber type sunscreens contribute towards coral bleaching

    We're told often that 'zinc oxide sunscreen is much better for you and the environment, particularly if you’re an ocean lover.'

    This isn't true.

    David Lyons: "Fortunately it has been shown that our reefs are safe. A recent newspaper article reported that Queensland's Great Barrier Reef is alive and well - not dead or dying.

    In Western Australia, the CSIRO says tourist hotspot Ningaloo Reef is in as good a condition as it was 30 years ago. No evidence of bleaching was found by CSIRO ecologist Damien Thompson. 

    Elsewhere, a study confirms that sunscreen measurements taken in water in popular beaches around Hawaii and in the US Virgin Islands were well within safe levels quoted in research. Most readings in Hawaii were at barely detectable levels. Just one small bay in the US Virgin Islands managed to get a reading of approx half of what research shows will have an effect on coral. This one small bay is heavily visited by cruise ship day-trippers and usually has 300 swimmers in the water, in a very small area, at any one time."

    Myth 11
    ‘Old’ skin doesn’t need to be protected from the sun like ‘young’ skin does.

    It's a common misconception that UV damage to skin occurs mostly in childhood. Of course infants and young children have more sensitive skin than adults, but your risk of skin cancer increases with UV damage to skin at any age.

    One of the world’s most thorough studies of sun protection among adults monitored 1,600 people in Nambour, Queensland with an average age of 49 and found that those who regularly used sunscreen over four-and-a-half years developed significantly fewer squamous cell carcinomas. Over ten years, the group applying sunscreen also developed half as many melanomas as the control group.

    So using correct and adequate sun protection can reduce your risk of skin cancer at any age.

    Myth 12
    Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide sunscreens are the least likely to cause a reaction on the skin. 

    The truth is that many sunscreens of all types can congest the skin - causing breakouts and blackheads - and also ageing, due to drying out of skin.

    To prevent zinc oxide sunscreens congesting skin it's essential to thoroughly cleanse and exfoliate - with gentle products - after each and every application.

    An additional problem is that many sunscreen formulas that use zinc oxide ALSO invariably include beeswax, shea butter, too-thick-for-skin cheap oils and so on – these ingredients are notorious for contributing to skin congestion and so causing the above problems.

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