Summer is upon us and we live in an outdoor playground to enjoy almost any activity you could imagine. Please enjoy this life that you have been given and please explore the beauty of Colorado Springs; just do it responsibly with sunscreens and sun protective clothing so that you are not accumulating more damage from the sun. To that end, for this issue we will explore some common myths about sun safety.

Myth: Tanning beds help protect you from getting a sunburn.

Fact: Tanning Beds are as cancer causing as cigarettes according to the World Health Organization! Any amount of tanning bed use greatly increases your chances of developing skin cancer as well as increases the signs of aging – think of skin that looks like an old dry piece of leather instead of youthful. Moreover, the type of tan that you get from tanning beds does little to prevent sunburns. In other words, getting a base tan from a tanning bed does not protect you from the sun. It just further harms your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer.

There is a nationwide movement to restrict tanning bed use among teenagers as they are very harmful to your health. Please never use tanning beds and parents, please do not allow your children to engage in this harmful activity.

Myth: Tanning beds and sun exposure are good sources of Vitamin D.

Fact: Tanning beds do not use the right type of light for optimal production of Vitamin D. Users of tanning beds get very little Vitamin D from a session under their artificial lights but they do get a significant amount of damage to their skin during these sessions.

Some people think that 15 minutes of actual sun exposure every day is healthful and enough to give you sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. Dermatologists disagree. While you will get some Vitamin D production from the sun during certain times of the year and during certain times of the day, it is highly unlikely that this amount of sun exposure will give you much Vitamin D. Instead, that sun exposure will accumulate and will cause more and more sun damage over the years. We generally think it is way more efficient to just take a Vitamin D supplement every day instead of trying to get enough from the sun. Ask your doctor, but usually taking 1000 IU of Vitamin D3 a day is considered safe and will help you from getting Vitamin D deficient.

Myth: Sunscreens cause more cancer than they prevent.

Fact: Today’s sunscreens are way better than they used to be and offer more of a full spectrum of sun protection than they used to. When used properly, sunscreens will decrease your chances of skin cancer and premature aging. I recommend sunscreens with an SPF of 30 as there really is little difference in protection between an SPF of 30 and 100. And, the formulations for SPF 30 sunscreens tend to be much nicer than those with higher SPFs.

My favorite sunscreens are those that contain the physical blockers of either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These mineral based sunscreens come in some very nice formulations and no longer make your skin look like they are covered in chalk.

Please remember that when you are out in the sun to re-apply the sunscreen at least every two hours, to wear sun protective clothing, seek shade when possible, and try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am-2pm.

Myth: Fake tanning agents are bad for you.

Fact: There are a number of lotions and spray “fake tan” products on the market that are mountains safer to use than trying to get a tan from a tanning bed or from the sun. They are safe to use and if used properly, can look very natural in appearance. My recommendation is to try a few of them and see which ones look the most natural on your skin.

Myth: People with darker skin types do not need to use sunscreen.

Fact: Even though it is true that people who have darker complexions do have some built-in protection from the sun, it is still very true that they still get damaged from sun exposure. This damage will accumulate over a lifetime and will expose them to increased risks of skin cancers and premature aging. I still recommend that no matter how dark your complexion is, if you are going to be out in the sun for more than 10 minutes/day you should be wearing sunscreen and sun-protective clothing.

Myth: My makeup has sunscreen in it and that is all I need.

Fact: While the sunscreen that is in makeup will offer some protection, I do not recommend that you rely on the protection found in makeup as your only method of sun protection. The reason for this is that most people do not apply their makeup evenly and this could lead to some areas being protected and some areas being exposed.

Instead, please evenly apply a sunscreen to your face, let it dry completely, and then apply your makeup on top of that. Some areas will be doubly protected but this will ensure that all areas are covered.

About the author

Dr. Anderson with Doctors Quarterly Magazine - Cropped
Dr. Reagan Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Micrographic Surgeon. He serves as a Clinical Professor of Dermatology and is actively involved in patient and healthcare provider education on dermatology conditions and treatment.

Colorado Dermatology Institute
8580 Scarborough Drive / 1220 Lake Plaza Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado