Navigating the ingredient list on a sunscreen bottle can be just as stress-inducing as taking a final you didn't study for ("retinyl palmi-what?"). Fortunately, NYMag recently reached out to Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, who breakdown the details on sunscreen myths you need to bust. Prepare to separate facts from fiction and become a master of all things SPF.
Before Gohara says anything else, she emphasizes one key point regarding sunscreen: “We know that 90 percent of skin cancers and 90 percent of the signs of aging come from ultraviolet light. That, we know for a fact. And the antidote to that is sunscreen." Noted. Now, time for some myth-busting.
One common misconception regarding chemicals are the claims "oxybenzone" and "retinyl palmitate" impact hormones and cause cancer. Gohara explains these claims come from animal test study results, but “there’s no evidence that these [ingredients] are carcinogenic [to humans, but] if somebody’s not comfortable, they’re simply not comfortable and that’s fine. There are plenty of alternatives." I personally am one that reaches for animal testing-free alternatives like these vegan sunscreen options, but appreciate Gohara clarifying the details around the chemicals.
Another major myth is the belief SPF 100 blocks out 100 percent of UV rays. Sorry kids, just ain't the truth. Sadly, no sunscreen is capable of blocking all UV rays, and the difference between protection levels is surprisingly minimal: "SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters 97 percent, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and SPF 100 blocks 99 percent." I'm not very good at math, but I can tell you that that makes no sense. What even.
But there is a silver lining. Sunscreens labeled "broad-spectrum" have to be tested by the FDA to prove they block both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays, and are always a better option. Regardless, applying sunscreen far enough in advance to sun exposure and every two hours afterward are both crucial for protection no matter what bottle you reach for.
And now, to the beach...in half an hour.
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