6 Sunburn Myths That Are Damaging Your Skin

BY Bridget March / Jul 10 2018 / 15:03 PM

Yes, you can burn in the shade

6 Sunburn Myths That Are Damaging Your Skin

Not only painful, sunburn is a danger to your health – something we all know, yet every summer we see sunburn surround around us.

Mostly inadvertent, for many people sunburn can be a result of misjudging the strength of the sun resulting in a lack of adequate protection.

For others, it is purely due to a common misunderstanding of some facts about the sun and their skin.

To cover all bases, we asked Dr Daniel Glass from The Dermatology Clinic London for the facts. Below he helps to demystify some myths surrounding sun protection and sunburn, aiding us to save our skin this summer:

MYTH 1: You won’t burn in the shade

FACT: “A common error many make is believing that they cannot burn in the shade, so resort to lying under an umbrella or tree when they need a ‘break’ from the sun. However, this is far from the truth as you can burn even when under a shade, due to UV radiation reflected off nearby surfaces. It is important to understand that it is not necessarily the visible sunlight that damages your skin, but the UV radiation. Even though we cannot see or feel them, UV radiation reflect off benign surfaces like sand, water, and even snow, which means that you can still get sunburnt even in the shade.
“For this reason, it is always important to ensure you are well protected from the sun, even when in the shade. This means regularly reapplying a broad-spectrum sun cream, with both UVA and UVB protection, using protective clothing and staying indoors during the hours of peak sunlight intensity. It is best to avoid deliberate tanning as that generally results in a degree of sunburn.”

MYTH 2: The odd sunburn won’t hurt

FACT: “Getting sunburnt doesn't mean you will definitely develop skin cancer, but getting sunburn especially when you are young massively increases the risk of skin cancer. For example, recent research based on almost 100,000 people showed that one sunburn between the age of 15 and 25 increased the risk of melanoma skin cancer by over 50%, and four episodes of sunburn more than doubles your risk of developing melanoma. For this reason, it’s a good idea to think very carefully about taking extra measures to protect your skin, especially if you have been sunburnt in the past.”

MYTH 3: You can’t burn through cloud

FACT: “Not only can you burn when it’s cloudy – you might get an even worse sunburn, as it is unlikely you will realise how powerful the UV rays are. People are often a lot more relaxed about sun cream application when the weather is overcast, and the clouds are more prominent than the sun, but what they fail to realise is that 80% of the sun’s rays can pass through clouds, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. This can result in extensive diffuse and reflected UV on cloudy days and cloud cover can change within hours. It is therefore important that apply your sun cream every two hours or after swimming and sport, even on cloudier days.”

MYTH 4: If you have dark skin, you don’t need sun cream

FACT: “If your skin turns brown from the sun, it’s a sign of sun damage, even if there is no redness or peeling. The change of colour in your skin is its way of protecting itself from the UV radiation in sun light.

“Make no mistake, whether you have dark or pale skin, your skin can get damaged from the sun and you’re putting yourself at risk of skin cancer. Although less common than in Caucasian skin, melanoma can occur in black or brown skin. Since it is less common it is often detected at a later stage and can be more dangerous.

“A naturally high level of the pigment melanin does of course add some protection from the sun, but it does not mean that sun burn cannot happen, especially with excessive exposure.”

MYTH 5: If you wear a high SPF, you do not need to reapply frequently

FACT: “No sun cream is 100% effective, even those which claim to give you an all-day protection, so you should make sure you re apply frequently and stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Spending hours baking in the sun is not good for your skin, even if you apply a high protection sun cream as the cream will only delay not prevent DNA damage in your skin. Wearing clothing may be an easier and also more effective than sun screen, and it is important to remember that using sunscreen does not allow you to spend longer in the sun, especially as most people don't use enough.

“When selecting a sun cream, make sure you are using the right one for your skin type which has both UVA and UVB protection. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause sun burn, however UVB is more potent than UVA in terms of causing redness or sunburn. The SPF number you can find on most sun creams refers to the UVB protection and it is always best to use factor 50. In the UK, there is often a star rating that refers to the amount of UVA protection a product provides, with five-star protection being the best for protecting the skin against premature ageing.

MYTH 6: Skin cancer won’t happen to you

FACT: “It could happen to you. About one in five people will develop a skin cancer at some point in their life.

“Skin cancers must be treated promptly a dermatologist. If you are concerned about a mole or a lesion on your skin that is changing, shape or size, bleeding or itching or just not healing it’s always best to visit a dermatologist, as they will be able to examine your skin and advise you whether any of your skin lesions are of concern and require removal.

“At The Dermatology Clinic London, we specialise in treatment of a range of medical skin conditions, including sun protection, skin cancer diagnosis, treatment and mole monitoring."

From Harper's Bazaar UK