Don’t Get Burned

Featured Article, Skin Cancer, Skin Center, Sun Protection
on June 1, 2009
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Think you know everything under the sun about protecting your skin this summer? Don’t be so sure. Here, with the help of dermatologist Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell, we’ve debunked some of the most common myths about sunscreen, skin cancer, tanning booths and more.

Myth: I can’t get burned if I’m sitting in the shade.
Truth: Escaping the sun under a tightly woven, dark colored umbrella away from reflective surfaces like water or sand can offer protection equal to 50 SPF, but if you’re on the beach, near the wet stuff, or even inside, damaging sunlight can find you. To stay fully protected, slather on at least SPF 15 sunscreen.

Myth: I only need to wear sunscreen on exposed skin-otherwise, my t-shirt does the trick.
Truth: If you can see light coming through your t-shirt when you hold it up to the sun, that means UV rays are reaching your skin when you wear it. Err on the side of caution and spread sunscreen (at least SPF 15) even underneath your clothes.

Myth: Tanning beds are safe as long as they don’t contain UVB rays.
Truth: Tanning bed companies do often filter out what they call the “sunburn rays,” but you’re still exposed to the UVA variety, which raise your risk of skin cancer and contribute significantly to discoloration, sagging skin and wrinkles (and who wants more of those?). Bottom line: Tanning booths are never a good idea.

Myth: If my moisturizer and foundation both have an SPF of 15, the numbers add up to more protection.
Truth: Think of it as a nice perk that makeup and lotion have added sunscreen these days-sun protection isn’t the primary purpose of those products. The dime-sized amount of foundation you normally apply only provides about SPF 1 or 2. You’d have to use about a teaspoonful of it to reach the SPF touted on the packaging. Plus, the numbers on different products simply don’t add up. Verallo-Rowell recommends always wearing a sunscreen underneath makeup. Look for the ingredients zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or avobenzone, each of which protects from both UVA and UVB rays-or just check the label for the American Academy of Dermatology’s AAD Seal of Recognition.

Myth: I have dark skin that never burns, so I won’t get skin cancer.
Truth: A pigment called melanin in darker skin does offer some protection from the sun’s rays, but you’re still susceptible to skin cancer. Although melanoma is uncommon for African Americans and Hispanics, it’s frequently fatal because it’s often not diagnosed until it’s too late to treat it succesfully. For people with dark skin, melanoma can also show up in hard-to-notice spots like the palms and soles of the feet.