#LiveBright: Sun Protection Myths Debunked with Dr. Sophie Greenberg

June 14, 2021

Sophie Greenberg MD Woman wearing white lab coat in front of city background

In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we are continuing our #LiveBright campaign to share sun safety tips, positivity and, of course, our original prints. We are collaborating with leaders in the sun safe community throughout the month to bring further awareness to skin cancer beyond sun protective clothing & swimwear.

Cabana Life is passionate about sun protection, and to give you the best information, we reached out to experts in the field, our favorite dermatologists! We are so excited to feature Dr. Sophie Greenberg. She is a Dermatology Resident at Columbia University. You can find her @sophiegreenbergmd on Instagram and sophiegreenbergmd.com. Read below to see the Sun Protection Myths Dr. Greenberg debunks! 

 

Why is sunscreen in makeup not enough to protect the face?

Most makeup does not have high enough SPF and/or is not applied in sufficient quantities to provide adequate sun protection. Most people do not put makeup on heavily enough for it to provide adequate sun protection. Instead, about ½ teaspoon of sunscreen should be applied to the face, ears, and neck before makeup is applied. A tinted sunscreen may provide a happy medium to those looking for tint coverage and UV protection.

 

I don’t need sunscreen indoors or in a car, right?

In both of these situations, glass does not adequately block UV light. Indoors, UV and visible light can come through windows in large quantities leading to extensive sun exposure. Although most windshields have a coating providing both UVA and UVB protection, the side windows do not. We routinely see patients with more extensive sun exposure on their left side due to ongoing exposure while driving.

 

Isn't sun damage not possible on windy, cloudy, or cool days?

In all of these circumstances, sun damage is possible! I recommend downloading the EPA UV index app, which provides an hourly UV index forecast by zip code. I refer to this app when deciding when I should go for a run.

 

Doesn't sunscreen work better than covering up with hats, umbrellas, sun-protective clothing, etc?

Sun protection is really a multi-layered approach, beginning with avoiding direct exposure during peak hours. When enjoying the outdoors, it’s best to stay in the shade or under an umbrella if possible (though the amount of protection depends on the fabric of your umbrella). Next is sun protective clothing with UV protective fabrics, broad brimmed hats, and sunglasses. Sunscreen should be applied to any exposed areas of skin -- face, neck, ears, and the backs of your hands. Women especially should take care to cover their legs -- this is a much more common site for women to get skin cancer than for men due to increased sun exposure.

 

"My clothing will protect me from the sun."

The level of protection depends on the fabric. Of course thick, opaque fabric will block UV light -- but it can be very hot in the summer! Light, summery fabrics like cotton tee shirt allows 20% of the UV lights to go through. UV protective clothing is optimal -- it’s made of special fabric that is lightweight and UV protective, allowing you to stay cool while blocking 97.5% of UV light.

 

"You cannot tan while wearing sunscreen"

False. You can certainly tan while wearing sunscreen as it does not completely block exposure to UV light. And a tan means that you are getting exposed to UV light which indicates sun damage.

 

I thought all sunscreen was waterproof?

No sunscreen is truly waterproof -- this term is no longer permitted to be used on sunscreen labels. If you are looking for a sunscreen that is safe to use when swimming or sweating, look for “water resistant” on the label, which means it is more likely to stay in place when wet. Note that when swimming, sunscreen should be applied more frequently.

 

"Sunscreen never expires."

Also false. Check your sunscreen bottle for an expiration date. Also, do not keep your sunscreen in the car as heat can damage the sunscreen making it ineffective.

 

"All sunscreen is the same. "

Also false. Many dermatologists say, “the best sunscreen is one that you will use.” I add the caveat that sunscreen that provides physical protection is actually much better (zinc or titanium as an active ingredient). Unfortunately, many patients cannot due to the white cast that is left behind. Chemical sunscreens go on clear but not all of them are “photo stable” - meaning that paradoxically, they degrade and become less effective when exposed to sunlight. Further, they are absorbed systemically, with studies showing that maximal sunscreen use results in plasma concentrations of sunscreen that exceed FDA established thresholds. Further studies are in process to determine if there are any health repercussions from this. When used sparingly -- on limited areas of body surface area or for limited periods of time -- these sunscreens are likely to be safe.

 

I thought that fake tans can help protect skin from the sun.

Another myth that has been debunked. A fake tan provides no sun protection from sun burns or other UV damage.

 

"Only people who go outdoors a lot and tan get skin cancer. "

Also false. Although certain types of melanoma are more likely to be related to severe, blistering sunburns obtained during childhood, non-melanoma skin cancers (squamous and basal cell carcinomas) are related to cumulative sun exposure regardless of whether you had a sunburn or not.

 Navy Unisuit

Photo via: @sophiegreenbergmd

We hope these tips remind you to stay sun-safe, and love the skin you're in!

For more Dermatologist Q&A's look out for our next #LiveBright blog & follow along on our Instagram.

And if you want to add sun protection to your wardrobe check out our new arrivals for all things sun safe & stylish.



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