Most Common Sunscreen Myths Unravelled

By Carly Cochrane - 10 months ago | Updated
lady squeezing sun cream into hand

When it comes to sunscreen there are a lot of misconceptions flying about. If you need help separating the facts from fiction before you buy your next bottle, then check out this list of the most popular myths surrounding sun protection – we’ll unravel the real truth.

MYTH: If you have dark or olive skin, you don’t need to wear sun protection.

Skimping on the sun cream is something that those with dark or olive complexions think they can get away with. While a strong skin pigment and natural ‘built-in’ SPF may mean that you are less likely to suffer with sunburn, it doesn’t mean that you are completely immune to sun damage.

Even though those with higher melanin levels have a better chance at blocking UVB rays (the ones that burn you), unfortunately, there is still room for damaging UVA rays to take a toll on your skin – it’s these rays that you need to protect yourself from. They’re the main cause of skin ageing, wrinkles and skin cancer so, no matter what tone you are, an SPF is essential.

Best sunscreen for dark skin tones:

Ultrasun SPF 50+ Anti-Ageing & Anti-Pigmentation Facial Sun Cream

Ultrasun SPF 50+ Anti-Ageing & Anti-Pigmentation Facial Sun Cream

£32.00 £33.58 (5% off)

MYTH: You can’t tan if you wear sun block.

We can all admit that we’ve tried to dodge applying sunscreen in fear that we won’t achieve a golden glow but, contrary to popular belief, sunscreen doesn’t actually stop you from getting a tan.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that the real reason we turn darker in the sun is because our body is attempting to protect our skin and block penetrative rays from harming us.

With that being said, it’s about time we stop running from the sun cream bottle and start effectively and efficiently protecting ourselves from UVA and UVB rays – there’s no excuse.

Best sunscreen for tanning:

Lancaster Sun Beauty Fast Tan Optimiser Satin Dry Oil SPF 50

Lancaster Sun Beauty Fast Tan Optimiser Satin Dry Oil SPF 50

£17.75 £22.45 (21% off)

MYTH: My makeup has SPF in it so I don’t need to wear any other sun cream.

It’s time to bust the myth that you can use makeup as a sun block. We understand that when products such as foundation, tinted moisturiser, BB and CC cream are infused with SPF, it can be hard to not solely rely on them for protection. But, according to clinical dermatologists, in order to rack up enough protection against UV rays we’d have to excessively layer on the makeup – and a cake-face in sweltering heat doesn’t sound the most appealing.

Instead, it is suggested that you apply a facial sunscreen under your makeup every morning. That way you are giving your skin the best possible protection and preventing lines, wrinkles and early ageing. It’s a win-win.

Best sunscreen for under makeup:

Bondi Sands Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+

Bondi Sands Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+


MYTH: One application of sun cream will last all day.

If you follow this rule it’s more than likely that by sundown you'll be suffering with sunburn.

SPF works to protect your skin in doses. For example, if you choose a sun cream that sports SPF15, that means you can stay out in the sun for up to 15 times longer than normal without burning. An SPF30 will protect you 30 times longer, and so on. With that in mind, the chances are that one application of sun block simply won’t protect you all day.

As a guide, experts suggest that you should reapply sunscreen every two to four hours, to ensure maximum protection. Activities like swimming will affect the wear of sun protection too, so in that case, it’s best to reapply every hour.

Best long-lasting sunscreen:

Riemann P20 Seriously Reliable Suncare SPF 50 Continuous Spray

Riemann P20 Seriously Reliable Suncare SPF 50 Continuous Spray


MYTH: You only need to apply sun block once you’ve made it to the beach.

It makes sense to apply sunscreen once you’ve made it to your destination; you can strip down into your swimwear and start slathering on the lotion before retiring to the sunbed. But actually, this method will leave you with a lobster-kissed look rather than a golden tan.

The truth is, in the time you’ve left the house, walked to your destination and applied cream, you’ve already set yourself up for a serious sunburn.

Ideally, you should apply your sun protection before you step foot outside. This is because it needs at least 20 minutes to sink into your skin before it starts working effectively. Following this rule will mean that you’re protected from the minute the sun hits your skin, and you can get to work on that killer tan quicker.

Best fast-absorbing sunscreen:

Eucerin Sun Spray Transparent Dry Touch Sensitive Protect SPF 50

Eucerin Sun Spray Transparent Dry Touch Sensitive Protect SPF 50


MYTH: You don’t need to wear sun cream if it’s not sunny.

If it’s windy, raining or cloudy, you don’t need to wear sunscreen, right? Wrong. A non-sunny day isn’t a hall pass, unfortunately.

UV rays have the ability to penetrate through haze and fog. In fact, UVA rays can even work their way through glass, so it’s a good idea to give yourself a layer of sun shield every day, no matter the weather.

The same goes for sitting in the shade, too. If you can see sunlight then chances are you’re still exposed to ultraviolet rays and their harmful effects, so wise up and wear an SPF just in case.

Best sunscreen for all year round:

Murad City Skin Age Defence Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Murad City Skin Age Defence Broad Spectrum SPF 50


MYTH: Sun cream doesn’t have an expiry date.

If you have spent the majority of your years believing that sunscreen can’t go bad, then it’s safe to say you have been misled.

Before you start throwing half used bottles of sun cream in your suitcase, be sure to check the expiry date. A gone-off sun block can lose its protection as chemicals degrade, causing skin irritation and sunburn. If you can’t see an expiry date, then a separated, grainy formula and odd smell should give it away. In general, most SPF products have a shelf life of up to three years when stored correctly. It’s always best to store sunscreen in a cool, dark and dry place.

MYTH: Doubling up on the factors will give you a higher protection.

Unfortunately, adding a factor 50, 30 and 20 together doesn't make you completely immortal from the sun.

Layering different SPFs on top of each other won’t give you a higher protection as the higher SPF will simply cancel out all the others. Similarly, layering SPF15 on twice doesn’t give you the equivalent of SPF 30 - instead it will just maintain the expected protection.

The experts recommend a broad-spectrum sun block of SPF 30 if you’re after adequate protection.

Best factor 30 sun cream:

Saltee Body Sea & Sun Lotion SPF 30

Saltee Body Sea & Sun Lotion SPF 30

£32.00 £35.00 (9% off)

MYTH: Sunscreen blocks vitamin D

Some experts might argue that this statement is true, but unless every inch of your skin is covered in cream, it’s unlikely that you’re missing out on vitamin D. While a sun shield might block UVB rays, which essentially kickstarts your skin’s production of vitamin D, it doesn’t completely ruin your chances of getting your daily dose. In fact, just your bare fingertips can help you absorb all of that goodness. To keep your vitamin D levels up and healthy, all you need is 10-15 minutes out in direct sun exposure – most of the time we do this incidentally.

MYTH: Most damage is caused by sun burn during childhood

No matter what age, whether you’re seven or seventy, protecting yourself from the sun is a must. Of course, skin is much more sensitive when you are young and over exposure can lead to long-term skin problems later in life, but that doesn’t mean that as you get older you can slack with sun cream. Harm from the sun is cumulative, which means that even as you get older, you are still at risk of skin diseases, dark spots, broken veins and wrinkles. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, only 23% of exposure occurs before you turn 18, which makes applying SPF all the more important.

Best sunscreen for sensitive skin:

Bioderma Photoderm Creme SPF 50+

Bioderma Photoderm Creme SPF 50+


With the most popular sunscreen myths now busted (and accompanied with sun care recommendations), you are now completely up to scratch with the ins and outs of sun protection. It’s time to leave sizzled, sore and sunburnt skin in the past and instead stock up on a shed-load of SPF.

Sun Care FAQs

What is the best sun cream for the body?

With the ever-growing number of holidays and travels, there is a greater need for a wide variety of effective and trustworthy body sun protection. If you have pale, fair skin then you should invest in a sun protection lotion with a high SPF number such as SPF50. If you have darker skin and very rarely burn, you're more suited to a lower rating, of around SPF20 or SPF15.

Best sunscreen for the body:

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Body Shield Classic SPF 50

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Body Shield Classic SPF 50


Can face sun cream be used on the body?

They may seem like the same formula, however, there are a few differences between the two products. Sun cream for the face is formulated different to body sun cream, and often contains different ingredients. Facial sun cream caters to sensitive skin, outbreaks of acne and blemishes, therefore the remedy is designed differently and with a different purpose.

To provide perfect balance to your skin tone, we suggest buying a face sun cream and a body sun cream from the same brand. The formulas complement each other to produce tone and protection.

Best sunscreen for the face:

Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defence SPF 50

Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defence SPF 50

£29.70 £33.00 (10% off)

Is sun cream waterproof?

Applying sun cream and being around water pretty much go hand in hand, therefore it's useful to know whether that thick layer of sun cream will wash off the moment you jump in the pool. The short answer is yes. All sun cream brands understand the demand for waterproof and water-resistant formulas, however, none have managed to create one that works efficiently.

We appreciate this is inconvenient when you're planning a beach holiday or a villa break with a gorgeous pool, but you're going to have to separate your sunbathing and swimming time. The good part is that sun cream is effective almost immediately, so once you've dried off after a fun-filled swimming session or lounging around on a pink flamingo, you can lather on the sun cream and soak up the rays.

Unfortunately, the water of the pool or the sea isn't the only thing you have to worry about breaking down that extra layer of protection. If you begin sweating, that's enough to break down most lotions, so you'll need to apply another layer if you begin sweating a lot.

Best waterproof sunscreen:

Evy Sunscreen Mousse SPF 50

Evy Sunscreen Mousse SPF 50

Carly Cochrane

Written by Carly Cochrane

As the Senior Content Editor for Cosmetify, Carly is the go-to for all the latest (and greatest) beauty tips, tricks and trends. With over six years of experience in the industry, she knows all the ins-and-outs when it comes to health, beauty and wellbeing. 

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