Healthy Lifestyle

UV protection myths: need-to-knows for a healthy summer

A photo of a woman walking through a tropical forest holding a woven sunhat in front of her stomach. She is wearing an orange sundress.


Summer's here and before we start rolling out beach towels and planning barbecues, there's one thing we need to talk about: UV protection. You might think you've heard it all when it comes to sun safety, but there's a lot of confusion and myths floating around. In this article, we're going to set the record straight, so you can enjoy your summer without damaging your skin.

Myth #1: Darker skin doesn't need sunscreen

First up on our myth-busting list is this common belief that darker skin doesn't need sunscreen. Let's start by understanding that UV rays don't really care about your skin tone. Whether you're pale as a sheet or richly tanned, UV damage is a risk for all

Now, it's true that melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, does offer some protection against sun damage. People with darker skin have more melanin, which can provide a certain degree of natural SPF. But here's the kicker: that natural protection is usually equivalent to about an SPF of 13. And dermatologists recommend using at least SPF 30 daily.

Scientific studies also back this up. Research shows that while people with darker skin might be less likely to get skin cancer compared to those with lighter skin, they often have worse outcomes because the disease is usually detected at a later stage. That's why it's so crucial to protect your skin regardless of its color.

Next time you're about to step out into the sun, remember sunscreen is for everyone. Don't let the myth fool you.

Myth #2: Sunscreen Is only needed on sunny days

You wake up, peek out the window and see a cloud cover. Your first thought? "Guess I can skip the sunscreen today." Hold up — this is another myth we need to bust.

Sunlight is made up of two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB). You might not know this, but UVA rays can easily sneak through the cloud cover. In fact, up to 80% of these sneaky rays can penetrate clouds and fog, reaching your skin even on the gloomiest days.

UVB rays, the ones that cause sunburn and play a key role in developing skin cancer, are indeed stronger on sunny days. But they can still reach your skin on overcast days, especially during peak daylight hours. The bottom line, the sun doesn't have to be shining bright for your skin to get damaged. Remember, clouds might hide the sun, but they don't shield you from UV rays.

Which brings us to another point: UV protection isn't just a summertime gig. It's a year-round commitment. Don't pack away that sunscreen when the leaves start falling or the snow begins to pile up. It's your best buddy all year long.

Myth #3: Higher SPF means better protection

Okay, let's move on to our third myth: Higher SPF equals better protection. Grabbing the sunscreen bottle with the highest SPF number seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast.

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from UVB rays. Here's the deal: SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%. Notice something? The increase in protection is pretty small as you go up the SPF scale.

What's more, high SPF sunscreens can give a false sense of security, leading you to think you can stay out in the sun longer without reapplying. But no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective for more than two hours without reapplication.

Don't get hung up on the numbers. A higher SPF doesn't mean you're invincible in the sun. What really matters is how well you use the sunscreen. Apply generously, reapply often and remember — no SPF can shield you completely from the sun's harmful rays.

Myth #4: Sunscreen alone is sufficient for UV protection

This one's a biggie: sunscreen is important, but it's only part of the equation to keep your skin safe. Sunscreen is your primary defender against the sun's rays, and protective clothing, hats and sunglasses can help, too.

Related content: 5 ways to keep your skin safe while enjoying the sunshine

Clothing can be an effective barrier against UV rays. Opt for long sleeves and pants made from tightly woven fabric, or go for clothing labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). And let's not forget about hats. Broad-brimmed ones offer the best protection for your face, ears and neck.

Then there are sunglasses. They aren't just a cool summer accessory. Quality sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays, reducing the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions. Look for ones that block 99% or 100% of UV rays.

Remember, a holistic approach to sun safety is the best one. So, team up your sunscreen with some protective gear, and you're on the right track.

Myth #5: Indoor activities don't require sunscreen

Let's talk about our fifth myth: the belief that indoor activities don't require sunscreen. You might be thinking, "I'm indoors, I'm safe." But let me tell you, those UV rays can be more cunning than you'd expect.

Glass windows, like the ones in your home or office, might block UVB rays, but most UVA rays can still pass through. UVA rays might not cause sunburn, but they contribute to skin aging and can play a role in skin cancer. So, if you're sitting near a window for extended periods, you're still being exposed to these rays.

Even if you're working away from windows, some indoor light sources, like fluorescent and halogen lights, can emit small amounts of UV radiation. While this exposure is much less than what you'd get outside, every bit counts when it comes to your skin health.

So, how about we rethink our indoor sun safety? Consider wearing sunscreen if you're spending a lot of time near windows or under certain types of indoor lighting.

Myth #6: Sunscreen Is waterproof and sweatproof

Next up, we tackle myth six: that once your sunscreen is on, it's going to stick with you through thick and thin, swim and sweat. Guess what? There's no such thing as truly waterproof or sweatproof sunscreen.

Most sunscreens these days are water-resistant, which means they can protect your skin while you're swimming or sweating. But they're not invincible. Usually, they can only keep up their work for about 40 to 80 minutes when you're getting wet or working up a sweat. After that, you're going to need a reapplication.

The next time you're picking out sunscreen for a beach day or a sweaty workout, look for a water-resistant label and remember to reapply, especially after you dry off with a towel, which can rub off sunscreen.

Myth #7: Pets don't need UV protection

Our final myth is one that might surprise you. It's about your furry friends. You might think they're safe from the sun because of their fur, but they need protection, too.

Pets, especially those with thin or light-colored coats, can be sensitive to UV rays. Some common health issues related to UV exposure in pets include sunburn and skin cancer. Fur can provide some protection, but it's often not enough, especially for breeds with sparse or thin fur, or dogs that love to sunbathe belly-up.

Pet-safe sunscreens are available and can be applied to areas like the nose and ears, which are particularly susceptible to sunburn. But remember, never use human sunscreen on pets without consulting your vet, as some ingredients can be harmful to them.

In addition, consider providing shade or limiting your pet's outdoor activities during peak sun hours. Protective clothing for pets, like UV-blocking shirts or hats, can also be a good investment.


Whew, we've covered a lot about sun safety— From debunking myths about darker skin and sunscreen use, to understanding the limitations of SPF and the need for year-round protection. We've also touched on the importance of comprehensive protection strategies, the role of indoor UV exposure and even sun safety for your pets.

The bottom line: Protecting yourself from the sun is more than just slapping on some sunscreen when the sun is blazing. It's about making informed choices, not falling for common misconceptions and taking a holistic approach to sun safety.

Remember, the sun might be a mighty foe, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can enjoy your summer days while keeping your skin (and your pet's skin) safe and healthy. Now, go ahead and show that summer sun who's boss!