Sunscreen is the most important arsenal in your vanity kit, yet it is mired in a lot of misconceptions. There is a lot of information circulating on the net and we don’t blame you if you are confused over what to believe. To help you sift facts from fiction, we chatted up Dr Ameesha Mahajan, dermatologist at RM Aesthetics, Amritsar, and here’s what she has to say.
Do you really need a sunscreen?
"Sunscreens are a very important part of our skincare they prevent tanning, pigmentation and delay ageing. We need to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen which protects us from both UVA and UVB rays. Both of these rays are harmful and lead to sun damage and also cause skin cancer," says Dr Ameehsa. Below she debunks the most common myths concerning sunscreen.
Myth: I have a dark skin. I do not need a sunscreen.
False. This myth stems from the assumption that people with more melanin ( the pigment that gives our skin its colour) in their skin do not need to use sunscreen because melanin protects against sun burns. While people with darker skin are more protected from the sun compared to fairer individuals, they should still use a full spectrum sunscreen because UVA damage is not blocked by melanin in the same way as it blocks UVB rays. And UVA rays can lead to premature skin ageing and wrinkles. Uneven skin tone, blemishes etc are also caused by long hours of exposure to sun without sun protection.
Myth: I do not need sunscreen if its cloudy or raining outside
Don't reserve the use of sunscreen only for sunny days. Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. A lot of people also skip sunscreen when they are heading out in the snow without realising that they’re actually getting hit by the sun’s rays more than once. Once from the sun and then when the sun’s rays reflects off the snow, making them even more prone to sun damage. The sand reflects 25 percent of the sun's rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun's rays. So if it’s cloudy, cold or a rainy day, you still need to apply your sunscreen the same way you would if it were a warm sunny day.
Myth: Skin Cancer happens in white skin and not Indian skin type
While melanin, which is the pigment that is present in darker skin more than the white skin types, does have a protective role against skin cancers, it is not that skin cancers cannot happen in our skin types. Because the chances of skin cancer are less as compared to caucasians, they are detected at a much later and advanced stage in Indian skin types. It is best to apply sunscreen to the exposed skin, at least if one is going out in the sun for long hours to prevent any chance of getting skin cancer.
Myth: I do not need sunscreen indoors
UVB rays cannot penetrate glass windows, but UVA rays can, leaving you prone to these damaging effects if unprotected. Also, the blue light emitted from our TV, computer and mobile phones is called high-energy visible light (HEV) and is as dangerous, if not more, than sun damage. Research on the specific effects of HEV is still developing, but scientists have said the light penetrates skin more deeply than the sun’s UV rays. These rays can impact our DNA and accelerate the ageing process and also exacerbate skin conditions which cause hyperpigmentation like melasma. So make sure to apply and re-apply your sunscreen even when you are at home to prevent any possible side effects.
Myth: Sunscreen can cause cancer
This myth comes from an older study done on oxybenzone, one of the active ingredients in many sunscreens. Rats exposed to oxybenzone experienced serious negative side effects like mutagenic changes in their cells. But as was highlighted later that the levels of exposure that the said study reached to produce health problems in the rats were extremely high. Calculations made by further studies demonstrated that those results were unattainable in humans, even for those who use sunscreen regularly and liberally. The researchers noted that after 40 years of oxybenzone being an ingredient in sunscreens, there are no published studies that demonstrate toxic effects in humans caused by absorbed oxybenzone.