Woman laying on a tanning bed
MYTH: Tanning booths provide safe sun
TRUTH: Most tanning booths claim to be safe because they emit UVA rays (not UVB rays) that don't burn your skin. However, these same rays, while non-burning, are responsible for deeper dermal damage over time which contributes to wrinkles and skin cancer.
Woman applying sunscreen
TRUTH: While many people are vitamin D deficient, exposing one's unprotected skin to the summer sun is not the smart way to boost your levels of the vitamin. Only 10 minutes of mid-day sun is needed to produce the amount of Vitamin D you need for the day. For those who still want or need more, vitamin D supplements, as well as a diet with vitamin D-fortified foods (milk, yogurt, cereals, fatty fish), are recommended.
Related: Vitamin D: Are you getting enough?
TRUTH: These combination products are good if going to the office (with limited sun exposure), but if outdoor activity is planned, these products will only suffice if an ample amount is applied (e.g., at least a marble's size dollop for the face and a golf ball size amount for the body). Also, frequent application is needed (at least every two hours if outside). Most people don't apply enough sunscreen to protect themselves to the extent indicated by the SPF number on the bottle.
Related: Sunscreen: When To Toss?
TRUTH: Everyone should have their skin checked by a doctor once a year. And not just any doctor, but a dermatologist who specializes in skin cancer prevention and treatment. It's critical that people do their homework and find someone who can provide the best care. Avvo is a free website that offers ratings and reviews of all the doctors in the US, including dermatologists. And because May is skin cancer awareness month, Avvo is donating $5 to the Melanoma Research Foundation for every doctor review you leave on the site.
Related: Health Hazards of Sun Damage
MYTH: The chemicals in sunscreen are bad for me.
TRUTH: Chemicals are only bad if you have sensitive skin. But now there are several non-chemical-containing sunscreens that do not irritate the skin and also have a wide range of sun protection (against UVA and UVB rays). Those with sensitive skin should look for products that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Girl with sunburn
MYTH: I'm not at risk if I always tan and never burn.
TRUTH: Because the three most common types of skin cancers (basal cell, squamous cell, melanoma) are related to cumulative sun exposure, protection of the skin from the sun is imperative (regardless of skin type). In fact, skin cancers have been reported in patients with naturally dark skin as well as pale skin, so just because someone tans (rather than burns) doesn't mean that skin cancer is not possible.
For more information on skin cancer and safe sun exposure, check out these related videos: