Medical Misconception: Sun & Tanning Myths

Each month, we set the facts straight regarding common health and wellness myths.

This month’s misconception: Sun & Tanning Myths

To take advantage of the summer sunshine, many of us spend time outside whether on vacation or in our backyards. While “fun in the sun” is part of the season, two of the biggest summertime medical misconceptions have to do with sun exposure – skipping sun protection on a cloudy day and not wearing sunscreen depending on how well you tan.

On a cloudy or overcast day, many are tempted to skip the sunscreen — after all, the sun isn’t shining, so it can’t do any damage, right?

That’s not the case. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the ones that can damage your skin; being overexposed to them can put you at a great risk of skin damage and cancer. Unfortunately, those rays are still present even when it’s a cloudy day, according to the American Cancer Society. Some clouds might block UV rays one day, but other clouds might reflect and increase the UV rays another. To make sure you are protected no matter what, it’s imperative that you protect your skin.

Some individuals’ don’t burn when exposed to the sun — do they have to wear sunscreen, too?

Yes. Anyone’s skin is vulnerable to UV ray damage, even if he or she doesn’t sunburn, according to the American Cancer Society. Bottom line: ultraviolet exposure can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer.

Protect Yourself

You can do a number of things to protect your skin from the sun:

  • First, don’t go out in the sun when its rays are strongest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The American Cancer Society recommends the shadow test as a quick way to determine the strength of the sun: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Wear clothing to cover your skin from ultraviolet rays. Remember, though, if you’re able to see through the clothing UV rays can pass through it, too.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that provide UV protection.
  • Wear sunscreen. Follow the label directions and reapply accordingly. About one ounce of sunscreen should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck and face of an adult. Learn about SPF in sunscreen

By taking some precautions, you can enjoy outdoor time in cloudy or sunny summer weather.

Do base tans prevent sunburn? Read more tanning myths.