There are many myths and misunderstandings about sun screen and skin protection. Yet it's very important to have the right informaton: UV radiation from sun exposure results in premature aging and skin cancers. There are more than 1 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year in the US.
Fortunately, we have Dermatologists Elsa Ordoukhanian, MD and Sylvie D. Khorenian, MD to accurately inform us.
Myth #1: You just need sunscreen when on vacation or at the beach. You need to apply sunscreen every day because we are exposed to UV rays every time we step outdoors. Choose a sunscreen that agrees with your skin type (for example, if you have acne-prone skin, choose oil-free sunscreen), with an spf of 30 or higher, providing broad spectrum protection (from both UVA and UVB rays).
Myth #2: People with darker complexions don't need sunscreen. The olive-toned skin most Armenians have does not provide "natural" protection from UV rays. Even if you do not burn, you will receive harmful exposure to UV unless you protect your skin. Olive-toned skin types can photo-age and definitely can develop skin cancer.
Myth #3: If you put on sunscreen in the morning, you are protected for the whole day.This is not true. If you are outdoors, you need to reapply sunscreen every two to three hours. You will sweat it off, wash it off when swimming, and may not cover all the areas when you apply it the first time (to cover your whole body, you need a shot glass full of sunscreen). If you are indoors, but planning to step outside at lunchtime, you should use moisturizer that contains sunscreen and seek shady areas.
Myth #4: You don't need to worry about sun exposure on cloudy days. UV rays will contact your skin whether the sun is "in" or "out." You can sustain more skin damage on cloudy days, because you don't feel the skin burning. If you don't want to use sunscreen, you can wear sunprotective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and always avoid the peak hours of the sun from 10am-4pm (these are good strategies whether the day is cloudy or sunny).
Myth #5: You need sun exposure in order to get adequate Vitamin D. Indeed, Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but it is much safer and wiser to obtain vitamin D through a diet rich in vitamin D-containing foods (such as fortified dairy products, cereals, and oily fish like salmon) and vitamin supplements than from sun exposure.
Myth #6: Sun exposure is most harmful to older people. In fact, sun exposure is most harmful to children. Sunburn sustained in the years before age 10 increase one's skin cancer risk multifold. Always protect children with adequate sunscreen. The exception is babies under 6 months of age, who should not have sunscreen on their skin. Instead, dress them with protective clothing, including a hat with a wide brim, and never put babies in direct sun.
Myth #7: If you get a sunburn, slathering on suncreen will protect you when going back in the sun. If your skin is burned, you should avoid sun exposure for 5 days afterward. Drink plenty of water, take ibuprofen, and apply an aloe vera gel frequently. Once the skin peels, do not peel it with your fingernails, allow the skin to shed naturally.
Myth #8: If you have damage to your skin from sun exposure there's nothing you can do to improve it. Premature aging (wrinkles, freckles, coarse skin) can be improved by the use of sunscreens, topicals containing retinoids, hydroxy acids, antioxidants (green tea and coffee berry extracts or idebenone), and peptides. More invasive techniques include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, Botox, fillers, and laser procedures.
Final word: Be familiar with your own skin, and any freckles, spots or moles. If you note a change in any of these, or if you see a new lesion that appears to grow rapidly, DO NOT DELAY visiting a dermatologist for an evaluation.