Health Dept.: Toughest skin and sunscreen myths busted

The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County, Inc. and Safe Kids Carroll County want you to protect your skin against sunburn. It can be a hard task, especially when social media and the internet makes it so hard to know the facts. Here are a few sunscreen and sun safety myths busted.

1. After a long winter, I heard I should get a base tan in the tanning bed to help acclimate my skin to the sun. I also heard it will help me “not burn” those first few times I’m outside. True?


False. Any type of UV rays, whether from indoor tanning beds or outside, are harmful to the skin. Tanning indoors will not help your skin from “not burning” or acclimate it to the sun. Dr. Anne Marie McNeill from The Skin Cancer Foundation helps break this down. “A tan is a sign of sun damage to your skin’s DNA. Skin cells respond to damage from UV rays by producing more of the pigment melanin to protect themselves from further injury. But this ‘base tan’ provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of 3 or less, and anything under SPF 15 provides inadequate sunburn protection.”

2. I want a tanned look, but how can I do that if tanning is unhealthy for me?

There are alternatives to sunbathing or UV light damage. Spray-on tans provide that bronzed, sun kissed look that is popular in American culture. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)-based products that color the skin are generally safe to use. Be sure to follow all directions. Recent advances in DHA formulations allow easier application and a more attractive outcome, recommends Dr. McNeill. However, just remember that these products do not provide UV protection, and to still apply sunscreen when going outdoors.

3. I just bought waterproof sunscreen. Does that mean it’s instant protection and I don’t need to reapply so many times?

When a sunscreen claims to be “waterproof,” this is inaccurate. No sunscreen has “instant protection” and they only protect you from harmful rays if used correctly and reapplied after a certain amount of time. Sunscreen wipes off with towels, sweat, and water. So make sure you apply 15-30 minutes before going outside and re-apply at least every 2 hours.

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Skyla Errter is a Community Health Improvement Areas specialist for the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County.