Are you getting burned by these sunburn myths?

August 28, 2017 Providence Health Team

Five myths about sunburns you should know.

Your skin is your largest organ, and as your most prominent feature, you do your best to protect it from free radicals and harsh environmental elements. But how well do you protect it from the sun? We love the vitamin D it provides, but in most areas of the country, overexposing yourself to the sun’s rays is easy to do and quite dangerous. Hats, makeup and skincare products are sometimes not enough to keep a sunburn at bay.

Most of us think of sunburns as a temporary inconvenience, when in reality they mean so much more. Let’s take a closer look:

Here are five myths about sunburns you should know.
  1. Lighter skin burns easily. People with lighter skin have less melanin compared to people with darker skin. This means they burn more easily and faster than others. Some skin types even burn within 15 minutes of being in the sun.
  2. Sunburn may not show up right away. Sometimes, sunburn takes a while to “develop.” You might think you’re just getting a tan, but in reality, your body is setting you up for a rude awakening. Sunburn redness typically shows up three to five hours after being outside.
  3. You can burn when it’s overcast. Cloudy skies don’t necessarily mean protection from the sun. In fact, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays still make their way past the clouds. If this is news to you, you’re not alone. Most people forego sunscreen on overcast days because they can’t see or feel the sun.
  4. Tans aren’t necessarily healthy. Bronzed skin may look good, but it simply means that your skin is trying to defend itself against ultraviolet rays. Depending on your skin type and how fast you tan, melanin granules spread across your skin or redistribute pigment to offer some protection, however slight.
  5. Water is not an effective sunblock. If you think getting in the water is a good way to take a break from the sun, think again. Being in the water actually enhances UV exposure because of extended time spent in its reflective properties.

Now that you know some facts behind sunburns, how can you prevent one?

  • Limit time in the sun to 60 minutes or less.
  • Consume vitamin D to help protect against UV radiation.
  • Rub coconut oil into the skin to release antioxidants that may prevent sun damage.
  • Choose the right sunscreen with appropriate SPF rating and apply often.
  • Cover up and wear loose, light-colored clothing to reflect the sun and keep cool.

It’s always important to follow best practices when it comes to avoiding something as seemingly innocuous as a sunburn. And if you’re listening to the wrong advice, a sunburn might be the least of your worries. When it comes to skin protection, reconsider these myths before you step outside.

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About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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