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Top 3 Sunscreen Myths Debunked

Zuzana Bleha
June 06, 2017

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Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world? How about the fact that getting a painful sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer?1 

 

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time for everyone to get the facts about how to stay protected from the harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays of the sun.  Here are the top 3 most common sunscreen myths debunked.

 

1. The higher the SPF, the better

 

This statement is misleading. It may sound logical that the higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF), the higher the protection, however, it's not quite so simple. For starters, a higher SPF provides only a marginal increase in protection. For example, a product with SPF 30 absorbs 97% of UVB radiation, while SPF of 50 and above does not substantially increase protection from UV radiation.

 

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. In fact, the Canadian government is looking at proposing stricter standards, including banning SPFs greater than 50.2 

 

Higher SPFs also mislead consumers into thinking they can stay in the sun for longer periods of time without reapplying. If they don't see the effects of the sun on their skin, they may stay out longer than those who would head indoors or reapply sunscreen, exposing themselves to more UVA rays. For this reason,  it is strongly recommended to carefully follow instructions to ensure that the sun protection factor is achieved. This includes applying product before exposure and re-applying frequently especially when perspiring or exposed to water.3 

 

2. Sprays are better than lotion

 

Sunscreen that is sprayed out of an aerosol can are very convenient to apply, and for this reason, many people prefer them to lotions. The perception is that they are not as sticky but just as effective.

 

But the issue is the SPF. A 2015 study comparing spray to lotion sunscreen found that people using sprays applied less product than those using cream.4 The SPF is determined using a standardized amount of sunscreen. When using a spray sunscreen, the amount of coverage you are applying is far less than what is required to protect your skin. Also, a lot of product is wasted when spraying and inhaled. These fumes are toxic to the lungs. In comparison, lotion is more controlled and easier to apply the right amount to get the SPF needed.

 

As a consequence, the protective effect is much lower than what is labelled on the product. This can result in UV over-exposure, burns and skin damage.

 

3. My employees can bring or use their own sunscreen, I don't have to pay for that

 

Actually, it is the responsibility of the employer to provide adequate protection for your employees. The Canada Labour Code (124) states that "Every employer shall ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected".

 

The US and Europe also state similar responsibilities in their applicable legislation. Employers should look at sunscreen protection the same way they do any other PPE like hard hats, gloves and safety glasses. Like a PPE, sunscreen is there to protect the employee against foreseeable hazards, in this case, UV rays, which are always present if the employee is working outside. Employers should ensure sunscreen is provided to their employees and used to prevent long-term complications like skin cancer.

 

Remember, skin cancer is preventable with proper long-term sun protection and if caught early even curable. For more information on sun protection for outdoor workers, please visit http://www.debgroup.com/ca/be-uv-aware

 

References:

1. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer

2. http://www.ewg.org/release/canada-plans-strong-sunscreen-warnings

3. http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/whats-wrong-with-high-spf/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25771707

5. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/L-2/page-23.html#h-51

 

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