Sunscreen was first developed in 1938, but the truth about sun protection still remains a mystery to many. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding how to effectively apply and use sunscreen.

While you may be aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen, you may not know some of these sunscreen facts, which can help you get the most out of your sun protection products.

1. Higher SPF Doesn't Mean Perfect Protection

When looking for a new sunscreen, your eyes may dart straight to the SPF, or sun protection factor. This number indicates how long the sunscreen would delay the burning of protected skin from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays compared to unprotected skin. In short, sunscreen with SPF 30 would take 30 times longer for skin to become sunburned and damaged than without sunscreen.

You may conclude that the higher this number, the greater the protection. While this is true, the difference isn't as significant as many people assume, and it can give a false sense of security to the wearer. A product with SPF 30 isn't twice as protective as a product with SPF 15, for example. While SPF 15 blocks approximately 94 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 can block about 97 percent.

Understanding how sunscreen works will help you select the best sunscreen for you and ensure you're using it properly. In general, you should look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.

2. You Can Safely Wear Sunscreen While Pregnant

There is a lot of confusion surrounding what cosmetics are safe to use during pregnancy. While pregnant women should avoid certain cosmetics, sunscreen is not one of them.

Applying sunscreen while pregnant is not only safe but encouraged. Protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays is important all year long, including during pregnancy. However, there are two main types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. During pregnancy, physical sunscreens that contain active mineral ingredients—called mineral sunscreens—may be preferred, as they are more gentle.

3. The Sun Can Still Damage Your Skin After 5 p.m.

Think you don't need sunscreen in the late afternoon or early evening? Think again. Summer days are long, and the sun might not set until 7 p.m. or later in some places.

The sun is strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. generally, but you can still get a sunburn after 5 p.m. This depends on the intensity of the sun at the time, and the best way to check the likelihood of experiencing sunburn or sun damage later in the day is by checking the UV index. If the UV index is still high at 5 p.m. or later, be sure to take the appropriate precautions to protect your skin.

4. You Might Need Sunscreen for Screens and Monitors

Sunscreen is formulated to protect against UV radiation, but light bulbs and computer screens may also pose a threat to skin health. While wearing sunscreen indoors may sound like a strange concept at first, it starts to make sense once you're aware of the effects of the artificial blue light coming from your devices.

Blue light from LEDs and screens can stimulate skin to produce more pigment, which can cause or worsen melasma. Both UV and visible light from your smartphone and monitor can also cause free radical damage in the skin, breaking down skin's natural collagen and resulting in the appearance of fine lines and dark spots.

With many people spending more time indoors and in front of their computers or phone screens, wearing sunscreen inside may help safeguard against the additional exposure to blue light.

5. A Base Tan Does Not Prevent Sunburn

Many people enjoy tanning. Whether it's laying out in the sun or in a tanning bed, getting a base tan can make people feel like they have some natural protection from the sun. The harsh truth is that an increase in the skin pigment melanin is a sign of skin damage, and this gradual development of a tan does not decrease your risk of sunburn.

The best way to prevent your chances of sunburn is by protecting your skin—not by exposing it to UV radiation from natural sunlight or tanning beds. Instead of getting a base tan, limit your time spent in direct sunlight and tanning beds. When spending time outdoors, always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen according to the instructions on the label.

6. Waterproof Sunscreen Does Not Exist

The Food and Drug Administration clearly states that there is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. In fact, sunscreen brands are not allowed to make this claim. Eventually, all sunscreens wash off, so their effectiveness is temporary.

If you plan on spending time outside in the water or partaking in outdoor sports, opt for a water-resistant sunscreen. Sunscreens that are water-resistant are not "waterproof," but they can remain effective for up to 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. You'll likely need to reapply after the allotted amount of time.

7. You Can Still Get A Sunburn On A Cloudy Day

When the weather is gloomy, you may assume your skin is safe from the sun. After all, the sun may be hidden behind thick clouds and gray skies. However, elements like rain, snow, and clouds do not block the sun completely, and the sun's rays can still reach your skin. In fact, sunlight can penetrate through and reflect off of these elements so you can still get a sunburn through the clouds. This is one of the many reasons why it's important to make sunscreen application a daily habit, no matter the weather.

When it comes to sunscreen facts, there is one that rises above the rest: Cumulative sun exposure, even when the weather is wet and cold, can cause skin cancer. Get into the habit of protecting your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen like the EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 on a daily basis, rain or shine.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

    View all posts