Er, not really. To save face – and everything below it – make sure you’re not falling for these misconceptions:

You only need sunscreen when outdoors

While ultraviolet B rays are at their most powerful in the middle of the day, ultraviolet A sneaks through in surprising ways. “UVA rays can also penetrate through clouds, window glass and light clothing,” explains Dr Adam Sheridan, dermatologist and director of Specialist Dermatology, Surgery & Laser clinics in Melbourne. “These rays cause sunburn, premature ageing and skin cancer and are quite constant throughout the day – whether the temperature is hot or cold.”

A foundation with sunscreen will provide full protection for your skin all day 

Most foundations only offer SPF 15 protection, which isn’t enough. “Another common misconception is that applying an SPF 15 sunblock with an SPF 15 foundation will give you an SPF 30+ protection,” says Dr Eleni Yiasemides, a Sydney-based dermatologist and Mohs micrographic surgeon. The best protection is to apply a broad spectrum 50+ sunblock underneath your foundation. “For all-day coverage reapply four hourly – and put it on 20 minutes before heading outdoors so it has time to absorb into your skin” Yiasemides adds.

People with olive skin don’t burn

They do, it just takes a bit longer. Though the effects are just as damaging and potentially harmful, according to Heather Walker, chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Skin Cancer Committee. So regardless of how fair or dark you are, she says, “We recommend outdoor activities for earlier in the morning or during the afternoon when the UV is lower.”

Sunscreens are able to penetrate your cells and cause harm

Many sunscreens now contain tiny molecules so small they’re called nanoparticles. On the plus side this makes them less visible and easier to apply. But some people are steering clear of them due to fears these particles are able to penetrate cell walls and disrupt hormones within the cell. These fears are unfounded. Research by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has found little evidence that nanoparticles penetrate below the skin’s surface.

Non-melanoma skin cancers aren’t serious

These more common skin cancers, such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma, are usually not life-threatening, the Cancer Council says. But in some cases they may be aggressive and spread, so check your skin regularly and see a dermatologist once a year. “Look for any new spots or changes in the shape, size or colour of existing freckles or moles,” Walker says. “The sooner a skin cancer is identified, the more likely treatment will be successful,” she explains.  

Did you know? Getting a tan before summer starts won’t protect you. A “base tan” only provides an SPF of about 3 or less, and it’s actually a sign of skin damage.

© Prevention Australia