Less is more, and other sunscreen myths

You’ve heard the saying, “less is more.” But when it comes to sunscreen, the opposite is true. Most people put on less than half the recommended amount of sunscreen, leaving them vulnerable to sunburn and increased risk of skin cancer.

If not used properly, sunscreen doesn’t offer effective protection. Here are four common sunscreen myths and the facts behind them.

1. Myth:
One coat of sunscreen is good for the day.
Truth: You need to reapply at least every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Each time you put it on, use at least one ounce (about a shot glass full) to cover your skin. One convenient way to reapply after your first coat of lotion is with a spray-on sunscreen.

2. Myth:
Using SPF 100 gives me three times the protection of
SPF 30.
Truth: Although the protection increases the higher the SPF, the gains are minimal. SPF 30 provides 97 percent protection, SPF 50 reaches 98 percent, and SPF 100 offers 99 percent. No sunscreen provides 100 percent protection. Plus, a higher SPF may tempt you to stay in the sun longer, but you still need to reapply every two hours. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using an SPF 30 or higher.

3. Myth:
All sunscreens do the same thing.
Truth: Sunlight is made up of UVA and UVB rays, which both can cause skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” for protection against both types of ray.

4. Myth:
The clouds will protect me from the sun.
Truth: UV rays can travel through clouds. If you’re going to be outside (any time of the year), you should wear sunscreen on unprotected skin.

Get more information from the American Cancer Society or the AAD, and learn about sunscreen options at www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen.