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White Lies: Sunscreen myths busted

Bombarded with advice on sunscreens and didn’t know whom to believe? We help you separate fact from fiction. There is a whole lot of confusion surrounding sunscreens. Our experts bust some popular sunscreen myths.

brunch Updated: Apr 07, 2012, 20:01 IST
Veenu Singh
Veenu Singh
Hindustan Times

Sun protection factor, ultraviolet radiation, skin suitability? There is a whole lot of confusion surrounding sunscreens. Our experts bust some popular sunscreen myths.

Myth: You need a minimum of SPF (sun protection factor) 50 to save your skin from sun damage.

Not true. We can easily do with a cream that has an SPF range of 15-30, which, according to dermatologists is ideal for Indian skin. However, it is important to factor in your complexion and how it reacts to exposure to the sun. If you are dusky, then you could do with SPF 15 sunscreen, but if you are fair skinned, opt for a higher SPF such as 30 since your skin is more vulnerable to sunburn and tanning. As far as skin types are concerned, experts recommend a cream-based sunscreen for dry skin. A gel-based sunscreen is better for oily skin while a lotion works well for the normal variety.

SunHot tip:
While buying sunscreen, choose one that also extends UVA coverage (look for uva++ or uva+++). UVA rays that penetrate to the dermis can cause free radical damage which ages the skin, produces wrinkles, leathery skin and splotches. SPF is an indicator of UVB coverage only, not UVA.

Myth: Do not apply sunscreen every two hours on dusty skin, especially when you are out in the sun, as it can block your pores.

Far from it. When you are out on a summer day, especially between 11 am and 4 pm, you are bound to sweat. That is why you need to reapply sunscreen. If you can’t wash your face, don’t apply sunscreen on a grimy face directly. This is when wet wipes come to your rescue. This is particularly true for people with oily, acne-prone skin. Wash or wipe the skin with a tissue before applying a non-greasy sunblock and protect yourself from the harsh sun.

Hot tip:
Choose a sunblock which is noncomedogenic (which means it does not block pores), non-greasy and fluid in nature.

Myth: Age, environment and stress levels don’t affect your choice of sunscreen.
Fact: Another white lie. Your age plays an important role in choosing the right sunscreen. People on the younger side (aged between 20-40 years) tend to have oily skin. They should use a non-greasy sunscreen that is gel or fluid based. As one ages beyond 40, hydration levels start reducing and skin becomes dry. Then, you should opt for a sunscreen that is greasy and moisturiser-based. The working environment should also determine your sunscreen choice.
Hot tip: Even if you work indoors, you should still apply sunscreen with UVA protection as the sun emits ultraviolet rays that can easily pass through glass

Myth: Not using a sunscreen can lead to a cancer risk.
Not quite. Thanks to our darker complexion and higher levels of melanin, Indians are less prone to skin cancer. However, in the long run, not using a sunscreen can lead to skin problems such as freckling, pigmentation and wrinkling.

Hot tip:
Going overboard with sunscreen can lead to rickets. Instead, walk in the sun before the rays get too strong to get your daily dose of vitamin D. It strengthens your immune system and enhances bone strength

Myth: I’m a homebird, so I don’t need sunscreen.
Not true. In the long run, it’s advisable to apply sunscreen even when you are at home. The sun’s rays reflect off any concrete surface. If you are sitting inside but next to a concrete wall, the UVA rays can still damage your skin, leading to tanning and pigmentation.

Hot tip: At home, use thicker curtains. Keeping windows closed can minimise the sun’s impact.

(Information courtesy Dr Navin Taneja, director, National Skin Centre, specialising in dermatology, cosmetology and dermatosurgery and Shweta Bhatia, beauty expert at Revlon)

From HT Brunch, April 8

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