5 common myths about sunscreen, and the facts that'll protect your skin

As a nation that’s used to rainy, dull weather, it’s no surprise that us Irish love to flock to the beach and lay out in the sun the minute it makes an appearance.

However, it’s important to take care in the sun. There are many myths and misconceptions about how to use sunscreen in a safe way that maximises your protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Bernie Carter, Senior Oncology Nurse at the Marie Keating Foundation, debunks some of the most common myths and gives advice on how to ensure you are not putting yourself at risk while out having fun in the sun this summer.

1. Sunscreen is waterproof

Carter says that sunscreen is “not necessarily” waterproof. “Some will say resistance will last up to 40 minutes in the water, but that’s not always proven to be true.” She explains that factors such as the time of day and the temperature can impact how effective a waterproof sunscreen is.

Chlorine found in pool water and salt in the sea can also wash away the protective lotion, meaning the waterproof label is not completely reliable. Because of this, creams should be reapplied every two hours to maximise protection from harmful sun rays. Carter recommends taking the “double coat” approach to applying sunscreen, which means putting the cream on 20 minutes before going outside, and then reapplying the cream once more before repeating the process two hours later.

2. You can’t get a tan if you’re wearing sunscreen

“Of course you can,” says Carter. “Sunscreen and suncream does not give 100 pc protection.” She explains that an SPF, which only protects against UVB rays, of 30 gives around 97 pc protection, while an SPF 50 gives about 98 pc. She also highlights that SPF only protects against UVB rays and not UVA, which can also cause cancer as well as aging. Look out for bottles that have a circle with UVA written in the middle because that shows the cream protects against UVA rays as per

While Carter is aware some people feel like a tan makes them look “healthy,” the Marie Keating Foundation are working to encourage the public to embrace their natural skin colour.

3. It’s good to be exposed to the sun everyday

A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology has shown that people in countries all over the world are experiencing a vitamin D deficiency, with sunscreen often considered the cause.  While some experts recommend going outside without sunscreen for 15-20 minutes a day to get your fill of vitamin D, Carter feels going outside without sunscreen is “very dangerous” and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, she recommends sourcing vitamin D from foods such as fish and eggs.

But, she notes that keeping an eye on the UV index is vital before heading out without protection. “0-2 is safe enough, but for people who might cycle or walk to work, the UV index might say its between 0 to 2 in the morning, but that might have changed by the time they cycle or walk home.”

“It’s just as important to check the UV index on cloudy and dull days,” she added.

4. Make-up protects your face from harmful sun rays

While some foundations and moisturisers contain SPF, this doesn’t make them fully effective in protecting against the sun. This is because, as Carter explained, SPF does not protect against UVA rays. As well as this, people don’t tend to reapply make-up every two hours like you should with sun tan lotion.

5. Sunscreen does not expire

Carter urges sun worshipers to keep an eye on sunscreen expiry dates, explaining that if the cream has expired it offers little to no protection against the sun. She also points out that sunscreen can degrade in the sun if it’s left open and in the heat. Like a lot of products, sun screen has an expiry date. While most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years, they will only remain effective if they are stored correctly throughout that time period.

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