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You think you know about sunscreen? Busting myths behind SPF


You’ve (hopefully) been using sunscreen your whole life, but do you really know what it does? Sure, it helps protect you from skin cancer, but it’s also important for your health and wellbeing in ways that go beyond the skin.  

There are unfortunately a lot of myths surrounding SPF use.  We’ve done some research and will help you sort out what you really need to know about.

What is sunscreen?

You know sunscreen is a liquid or cream that you put on your skin in order to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays.  But you may not know what it does and how it works.  One of the huge benefits of sunscreen is that it reduces damage from free radicals.  These are rogue particles that break up your cells, causing them to mutate and potentially cause cancer and other diseases.  On every bottle of sunscreen, you’ll see the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, listed. 

What SPF means

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF is a number that tells you how long the sun’s ultra violet (UV) rays would take to burn your skin “if you apply the sunscreen exactly as directed compared with the amount of time without sunscreen.”  

This definition alone has triggered an SPF myth.  Some people think that SPF has to do with the time in the sun, but it’s actually how much longer you can stay in the sun with sunscreen on vs not wearing sunscreen at all.  It can be confusing. 

To clarify, if you use an SPF 15, it takes 15 times longer to burn than if you used no sunscreen.   So if you would normally burn in 2 minutes without sunscreen, you would burn in 30 minutes with sunscreen applied properly.  

SPF Myths

If you weren’t sure what that SPF number meant, there are probably other things you didn’t know about SPF.  Here are some of the more common misconceptions about Sun Protection Factor.  

Myth: SPF number is how much protection you get.

Some people incorrectly assume that if a sunscreen has an SPF of 30, they get 30% protection.  Or if it’s 100, they get 100% protection.  Again, the number is how much more time your skin is protected in relation to wearing no sunscreen at all.

Sometimes when people think in terms of percentage of protection, they will buy an SPF of 100, thinking that it will provide three times more protection than an SPF 30.  SPF 30 generally blocks about 97% of the sun’s rays… again, for 30 times longer than no sunscreen at all, if applied properly.  An SPF 100 is said to block about 98%, but for a longer period of time. 

Myth: Sunscreen causes vitamin D deficiency.  

UV rays from the sun trigger a protein in your skin to make vitamin D.  We need this to help regulate calcium levels that help our bones and teeth stay healthy.  Some people assume that since sunscreen blocks UV rays, it stops the body from producing vitamin D.  

No sunscreen blocks 100 percent of the sun.  There is always 2-3 percent allowed to reach your skin and that is sufficient for vitamin D production.  We also get vitamin D through our food and can take supplements, so if anyone is worried about it, they have other options.  

Myth: Getting sunburned once will give me better protection than sunscreen can.

This myth is troubling because people assume our skin works like our immune system, meaning exposure is immunity.  That base tan or burn will not help protect you, at least according to your butt.  



Because American butts are rarely exposed to the sun, scientists studied whether a base tan provides protection against UV rays by having volunteers literally sun their buns.  The results say that a base tan or burn may provide a natural SPF of 2-3, but it’s not significant and it doesn’t build up as you get more color.

Myth: Dark skinned people don't need sunscreen.

Not true.  Everyone needs it.  It is true that dark skinned people don’t burn as easily as people with lighter skin, but UV rays are dangerous to everyone.  Excessive exposure causes damage, no matter what you look like.  Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of race, gender or age.

Myth: You can’t get burned on a cloudy day.

Up to 90 percent of the sun’s rays can still get to your skin even on cloudy days.  It doesn’t feel quite as hot and the sun is hidden, so people aren’t always great about wearing sunscreen on those gloomy days.  You can not only still get a burn, but if you are near water or sand, you might even get a worse sunburn because those elements reflect the sun.  

Myth:  My makeup has sunscreen.  I’m covered.

If your foundation contains an SPF of at least 30, that is a good thing.  But, it doesn’t work quite as well as regular sunscreen.  That layer of makeup is likely to be thin and won’t give you all-day protection.  Plus, you probably don’t cover your ears and neck with foundation.  

Myth: Windows will protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Yes and no.  UVB rays are blocked by glass, but UVA rays are not.  Prolonged exposure to these rays could cause damage.  If you’re on a long car ride or sit by a window for long periods to time, use sunscreen or cover up exposed skin.  

What you can do to better protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays

There is something wonderful about going outside on those warm, sunny days.  It’s one of life’s pleasures and you don’t want to deprive yourself of that.  Thankfully you can protect yourself at a high level using sunscreen, if you do it right.

  • Look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” that have an SPF of 15-50.  These protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.

  • Use water resistant sunscreen.  Always reapply after swimming or sweating. 

  • Zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide mineral based sunscreens are the most effective.

  • Super high SPF’s don’t necessarily work better.  Avoid anything over SPF 50.

  • Lotion is best.  Spray and powder sunscreens do not provide as much protection. 

  • Be aware of any medications or products you use that can make you hyper sensitive to sun exposure.

Don’t forget to try and cover areas of your body.  A hat with a wide brim and sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays are always a smart bet. Utilize shady spots. Plan outdoor activities for earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is lower.  

Always get suspicious spots on your skin checked out by your doctor!  With any form of cancer, the quicker you treat it, the more likely you will stop it from spreading.

Qyral’s April promotion will get you set up for summer sun!

If you order our 3 or 4 step system for the month of April, we’ll send you our SPF primer for free!  You not only get sun protection, but a customized collection of our amazing products. 

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