10 Sunscreen Myths—Busted
Maria Sharapova and Holly Thaggard, co-owners of Supergoop!, gush on SPF and all its (necessary) glory.
When Holly Thaggard’s dear friend was diagnosed with melanoma, Holly was floored. “I couldn’t believe someone so young and healthy could get skin cancer,” she said. After discovering that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer (1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed in their lifetime), and that more than 90% of the signs of aging are caused by the sun, Holly decided to do something.
She created Supergoop! and last year, added tennis legend Maria Sharapova to the fold. “Sunscreen has always been a priority,” Maria said. “Several years ago, I found Supergoop! at Sephora and fell in love with their Everyday Sunscreen. I met Holly in December of 2013 and we hit it off right away—the company stands for so much more than just a skincare product line, and Holly’s passion for educating and raising awareness around the epidemic of skin cancer really inspired me because I felt like I could help.” We asked Holly and Maria to clear the air surrounding 10 common sunscreen myths—we suspect their answers will surprise you as much as they did us.
Myth: If I have SPF in my moisturizer, I don’t need another sunscreen.
Fact: Many makeup products that market SPF don’t contain broad spectrum, the SPF is lower than a 30 or they’re not applied as generously as SPF must be applied to be effective. Let your foundation, tinted moisturizer or BB/CC Cream be the bonus protection.
Myth: UVA rays are the dangerous rays.
Fact: UVA rays, or “aging rays,” are intense year-round and they can pass through glass. UVA rays do not change the color of the skin, which means there’s no immediate indicator of the damage that they do. UVB rays, or “burning rays,” cause sunburns. Both types can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Myth: Last-year’s sunscreen is still a-okay.
Fact: The shelf life begins at the date of manufacturing rather than the date you opened the product. If your newly-purchased sunscreen was recently manufactured, it is likely effective for two years (three years, max) so using it from one season to the next could be okay. Keep in mind, however, that if you apply generously and frequently 365 days a year, a bottle of sunscreen should not normally last from one summer to the next. And, it’s not so much about the sunscreen becoming ineffective as it is the risk of bacteria and fungal growth, which can happen well within the expiration date, and quickly lead to serious skin irritation and allergic reactions.
Myth: Sunscreen should be applied last, right before you walk out the door.
Fact: In determining when to apply your UV protection, it’s important to know what type of UV-protection technology the formula uses. Sun-filter technologies (or “chemical formulations” like Avobenzone) absorb into the skin and should be applied before any product with a mineral element (mineral foundations or powders), which would inhibit the absorption. Sun-blocking technologies (“physical” or “mineral formulations” like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) sit on top of the skin and should be applied after any products that you want to absorb into the skin (moisturizers, serums, etc.).
Myth: A long-sleeved tunic is adequate protection.
Fact: Thin materials let in more UV light than heavier, denser fabrics and dark or bright colors absorb more UV than white or pastel, so they are far better at stopping the rays for reaching the skin. There are now very modern, effective options available that block the sun—J.Crew, Parasol Sun, Cabana Life and Mott 50 all have pieces worth checking out.
Myth: A base tan will protect my skin from further damage.
Fact: Any change in the color of your skin is sun damage. Period.
Myth: You must be diligent to put sunscreen on your children.
Fact: Teach your children to own the habit, rather than chase them around with a tube in hand. Encourage the habit year-round, even on cloudy or rainy days, so that it truly becomes part of their everyday regimen. Make it fun! Holly’s daughter applies Supergoop! to her face and neck each morning with a bright pink Beauty Blender.
Myth: Your face is the first place to show signs of sun damage.
Fact: While the lips and the eyes are the first areas dermatologists check for skin cancer, it’s often the hands that are the first place to show signs of damage. (Think about it—people tend to wash their hands after applying sunscreen.)
Myth: Stay in the shade to stay safe.
Fact: Shade can be a very valuable means of protection from UV rays, but your skin, without sunscreen, is still at risk for sun damage. UVB rays can easily reach the skin indirectly–particularly by bouncing back from surfaces like concrete, sand, snow and water. This also explains why your forehead can still get some sun, even when you're wearing a baseball cap.
Myth: Some sunscreens contain ingredients that have been proven to cause cancer.
Fact: There are many ingredients found in both drugstore and department store sunscreens that are controversial in that they may possibly be carcinogenic.
Things you want in your sunscreen:
- SPF 30 – SPF 50 (SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of the protection against UVB rays only. In order to ensure total UVB and UVA protection, make sure your product says “Broad Spectrum” and/or has the PA+ rating, which is a Japanese rating for protection against UVA rays)
- Broad Spectrum and/or PA+
- Water Resistant, if needed (up to 80 minutes)
- Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Restorative Omegas, Meadowfoam Seed
Things to avoid in your sunscreen:
- Oxybenzone (The no. 1 allergen in suncare! And a possible hormone disruptor)
- SPF values over 50 (SPF benefits top out at 50)
- Parabens (They're irritating!)
- Retinyl Palmitate—or Vitamin A (Studies suggest this antioxidant can speed up the growth of skin cancer)
- Fragrances (Often irritating and usually responsible for burning the eyes!)