7 summer skin myths debunked

Do you need to wear sunscreen on cloudy days? And does an SPF moisturiser provide enough sun protection? Experts sort fact from fiction.

From sun protection tall tales to skin care assumptions, there are numerous commonly perpetuated myths about what’s important and what’s not for our skin during summer.

Australasian College of Dermatologists members Dr Natasha Cook and Dr Kathryn DeAmbrosis set the record straight on seven common misunderstandings.

MYTH: Sunscreen is only necessary while doing an outdoor activity

Most of us embrace a slip, slop, slap, shade, slide sun protection routine when we’re outside swimming, at the beach or playing sports.

But Dr DeAmbrosis says many of us fail to account for incidental ultraviolet (UV) radiation during the course of our daily life.

“It’s important to wear sunscreen every day to prevent cumulative UV exposure damage,” says Dr DeAmbrosis.

“Some UV rays can even penetrate window glass, which means skin is at risk of exposure even when inside a car or working by a window.”

MYTH: The SPF number is unimportant

This myth isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

A recent study found SPF 100 sunscreen to be superior to SPF 50 at preventing sunburn.

However, previous research indicated SPF 30 sunscreens or higher were adequate.

“You get about an extra 1 per cent protection after SPF 30,” Dr Cook says.

“SPF 30 gives approximately 97 per cent protection.”

Adequate application is essential to ensure the maximum level of protection.

The Cancer Council recommends applying 5ml (the equivalent of one teaspoon) to each arm and leg, body front, body back and face.

MYTH: Darker complexions don’t need sun protection

“UV rays do not discriminate!” says Dr DeAmbrosis.

Melanocytes (the pigment cells that make melanin and give skin its colour) provide some protection against UV radiation, meaning it won’t burn as quickly, but darker skin types still suffer from other sun damage side effects – such as skin hyperpigmentation and melasma.”

MYTH: You don’t have to wear sunscreen on cloudy or overcast days

“Cloud cover does not protect from the harmful effects of UV radiation,” says Dr DeAmbrosis.

Dr Cook notes that people may even experience worse sun damage on cloudy days due to a “false confidence regarding how long they can stay outside and they often wind up more burnt”.

Regardless of the forecast, sun protection is necessary when UV Index levels are 3 or higher.

MYTH: You don’t need sunscreen if your moisturiser/foundation contains SPF

Despite the convenience of moisturisers and foundations that contain SPF, Dr Cook says they often fall short of providing a sufficient level of sun protection.

“Moisturiser and foundation are usually sparingly applied, meaning you’re unlikely to apply enough to achieve the stated level of SPF protection,” Dr Cook says.

“An SPF sunscreen should be worn underneath your moisturiser or foundation.”

MYTH: Moisturiser makes your skin greasy in summer

Humid conditions causing sweat are more likely to blame for greasy summer skin – not your moisturiser.

“If you’re using the right moisturiser, your skin shouldn’t feel greasy or oily,” says Dr DeAmbrosis.

But Dr DeAmbrosis recommends forgoing heavier textured moisturisers as “lighter formulations like lotions and creams” wear better in warmer conditions.

MYTH: Your skin should be bare to ‘breathe’ in summer

“When people say this, they’re referring to using heavier products during summer. When combined with sweat, this can lead to acne and other skin problems,” explains Dr DeAmbrosis.

Instead, tailor your skin care routine in summer by using lighter formulations along with a layer of sunscreen.

Written by Sharon Hunt.