Your skin is not tanned, it is sun-damaged.

Read this before applying sunscreen again. Then maybe, you will avoid sun damage.

A healthy dose of vitamin D is good for the body, mind, and spirit. However, like one tequila shot at the age of 30, too much of anything can have awful consequences. Sunbathing leads to sun damage rather quickly, and that is only a medium-sized portion of sun overexposure. That is why we cannot overstate how important it is to make sunscreen a part of your daily skincare routine. No matter your ethnicity, skin tone, or place of residence, wear a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen every day, please! 

If you knew all of this already and feel smug, relax. Investing in your [summer] skincare routine has a way of making you feel like an expert sometimes, I get it. Yet, it may surprise you how little you truly know about the skin and which skincare products work for your specific skin type and issues. Before you beeline for the great outside this summer, take a quick look at these:

7 common misconceptions about sunscreen

1. Only people with lighter, paler skin tones need to wear sunscreen

Considering that we talk about this all the time, this should be the most obvious misconception about sunscreen. In an older article, we shared just how much time you can expose yourself to the sun based on your skin tone. People with lighter skin tones can spend up to 15 minutes in the sun, while people with darker skin tones can spend up to 30 minutes before sun damage. 

How do you differentiate between a lighter and darker skin tone? Well, turn on the news, for one. Then, consider how much pigmentation your skin has. People with more melanin-rich skin tones are darker, while those with less melanin are lighter. If you are still unsure, here is a cute but non exhaustive illustration of skin tones.

illustration of darker to lighter skin tones

2. Sunscreen with a higher SPF will block sun rays

Imagine having no control over the rising and setting of the sun or how hot it can get, yet thinking we can create a skincare product that blocks the effects of the thing we cannot control. Crazy. Anyway, the answer is no. Although sunscreen with a higher SPF - sun protection factor - can extend the time you spend in the sun, its protection varies by application. Meaning, apply the right amount of sunscreen to your entire [exposed] body for optimal protection. Most people fail to do this, and this is why sunscreens with higher SPFs seem not to work. 

In any event, the rule of thumb is: if a sunscreen has an SPF of 30, you can have up to 30 more minutes of sun protection once you apply the sunscreen liberally.

3. There is no difference between sunscreen and sunblock

This one is funny! The names should state the difference, but common sense isn’t always common. Sunscreen includes chemicals that absorb the sun’s UV rays before they reach the dermal layer of your skin and wreak havoc. Some common active ingredients found in sunscreen are oxybenzone, avobenzone, and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). These ingredients are responsible for healthy sun ray absorption. 

On the other hand, sunblock is more potent than sunscreen. Like emollients, sunblock sits on top of the skin - it is not absorbed - and acts as a barrier to the sun’s rays. Two of the most common active ingredients found in sunblock are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Although many sun-protecting products go on clear, sunblock tends to be opaque and not the most attractive if you want an Instagram-worthy photo while sunbathing at the beach. As a semi-friendly black hottie, you may be surprised to know that I prefer and use sunblock because I do not want an uneven skin tone or hyper-pigmentation!

4. Sunscreen prevents your skin from getting vitamin D

As mentioned, vitamin D is essential for your body, mind, and soul. It promotes healthy bone growth, stimulates your immune system, fights certain diseases, and improves your mental health. Given the intensity of the sun’s rays - I mean, it powers an entire system of planets - it is not possible to prevent your body from getting vitamin D altogether. Through the absorption of the sun’s rays, sunscreen disperses the vitamin evenly. Although sunblock is a barrier, extended time in the sun will wear away the product and allow the sun’s rays to penetrate your skin.

5. You only need to apply sunscreen once before going outside

Perhaps in cool and overcast conditions, you may get away with a single application of sunscreen before going outdoors. Why? Because you are less likely to sweat off the product under those conditions. However, if you live in the desert that is California, for example, you need to reapply sunscreen as often as needed! In a previous article, I shared a sunscreen spritz by Pacifica. For an added layer of hydration, I recommend that you pair it with Masktini’s Woke Bae Whenever Moisture Spritz.

6. Sunscreen should only be applied while outdoors

Considering we spent most of 2020 indoors, I imagine sunscreen and sunblock sales were down for many brands. And that is because too many people believe that you do not need to wear sunscreen while indoors. I was once a part of this school of thought, but I am delivered, and I now wear sunscreen even if I plan to stay inside all day. The sun overpowers us, and the speed of light makes this evident. UVA and UVB rays can pass through glass windows and cause just as much sun damage as they would if you spent the entire day sunbathing. Unless you live in a big box store that has no windows, it is best to take measures to protect your skin.

7. Tanning is healthier than sunburn

This one is the zinger! If you remember The Simple Life or Jersey Shore, you know how important it is for the girlies (and boys) to have that sun-kissed (read: Oompa Loompa) glow! While I would never argue that a natural tan can be attractive, all that glitters is not gold. A tan is a result of your immune system sending repair enzymes to the site of sun-damaged skin. These enzymes produce more melanin, or darker pigment, to prevent further sun damage. Hence, darkened skin. This damage can be permanent and lead to skin issues such as premature aging and sun cancer. Neither of these conditions is desirable.

With only a few days left until summer 2021, you may want to consider your approach to the outside. Yes, frolic and give us your hottest girl summer yet, but be safe with everything you do. Mask and vax up, wear your sunscreen or sunblock, mind your business, and be sure to visit again for more skincare tips that you didn’t know you needed. Until next time!

Meet The Author

Otishka Ferguson

I am a women's fashion and beauty writer who survived 14 straight months of cystic breakouts and now has smooth, clear skin again. So obviously this makes me a skincare expert.

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