The Top Four Myths About Tanning

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

—by Jeff Jurmain, MA

Separating fact from fiction is important when protecting oneself from the world’s most common cancer: that of the skin. A new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology has uncovered common myths about tanning and sun protection, and has set the record straight.

The “Suntelligence: How Sun Smart is Your City?” online survey polled more than 7,000 adults from 26 cities nationwide to determine their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward tanning, sun protection and skin cancer detection. It showed that people are fairly unclear about what’s true and what’s false.

Here are the top four myths:

Myth 1: “Some types of ultraviolet (UV) rays are safe for your skin.” Nope! Ultraviolet A rays reach the thickest layers of the skin and can suppress the immune system (and can pass through windows). Ultraviolet B rays are the sun’s burning rays (blocked by glass), and the main cause of sunburn. All forms of UV exposure are unsafe and are a preventable risk factor for skin cancer.

Myth 2: “Getting a base tan is a healthy way to protect skin from sun damage.” Nope! A tan means your skin has UV damage. This damage accumulates over time, accelerates the aging process, and boosts the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen is key.

Myth 3: “It is smarter to tan indoors using a tanning bed.” Absolutely not. International cancer experts have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial light sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen. Indoor tanning equipment emits UVA and UVB radiation and, in addition to causing sunburn, also causes skin damage linked to melanoma.

Myth 4: “A sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 provides twice the protection as an SPF 15.” Nope. Protection from the sun’s burning rays does not actually increase substantially along with an SPF number. For example, an SPF of 30 screens 97% of UVB rays, whereas an SPF of 15 screens 93% of UVB rays, and an SPF of two screens 50% of UVB rays.

Regarding sunscreen or sunblock, it’s important to know that it does not protect you entirely from UVB rays and must be reapplied continually. When the sun’s at its peak, finding shade is the best form of protection (although you should remember that shade cannot fully protect you from getting sun damage)..