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“SPF 30 is all you need”, plus 8 more sunscreen myths debunked

Bottle of sunscreen lotion on beach

Summer dress season is in full swing, and with the freedom of scoop necks and spaghetti straps comes the stress of selecting a sunscreen. What SPF is necessary? Do children need a special formula? And are chemical ingredients really dangerous? There are lots of rumours about sunscreen floating around online and on the beach, adding to the confusion. With skin cancer on the rise in Canada, it’s more important than ever to separate fact from fiction. We asked dermatologists to debunk the most dangerous, deceptive and downright silly myths.

Myth: There’s no added value to wearing anything above SPF 30

The Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) recommends using a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, but going higher can add an extra layer of protection. SPF, which stands for sun protection factor, is a measure of how long you can spend in the sun before burning. Wearing a sunscreen with SPF 30 allows you to be outside 30 times longer without getting a sunburn. That means that someone who burns in 20 minutes without protection would be able to spend 600 minutes, or 10 hours, in the sun before turning red.

If you put on sunscreen perfectly — applying a generous layer to all exposed areas of the body — SPF 30 should be adequate, says Jennifer Beecker, a dermatologist and research director in the Division of Dermatology at The Ottawa Hospital. However, research shows that people apply a quarter to half the recommended amount, which reduces the SPF. “We find that when patients put on a higher SPF, it can counteract the under-application effect,” says Beecker, who is also national chair of the CDA Sun Awareness Working Group.

Several studies back this up, including one published last month in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. In that study, people wore SPF 100+ sunscreen on one side of their face and SPF 50+ on the other, and the researchers found that SPF 100+ was significantly more effective in preventing sunburn.

Click here to find out what other myths there are about sunscreens.

Credit: Raina Delisle, chatelaine.com

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