Sunscreen myths in the media

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How to cite: Wong M. Sunscreen myths in the media. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. June 27, 2023. Accessed December 22, 2023.

It’s sunscreen season, and as you’d expect, there are lots of sunscreen articles coming out, full of common myths. 

I’ve debunked a lot of myths about sunscreens before – sunscreens are toxic, you can make your own sunscreen – but this time I’m going to focus on incorrect advice from trusted media sources. These myths tend to be a bit harder to spot, and they have less obvious (but still bad) consequences. 

I don’t entirely blame the people writing these articles because this is part of a larger problem with sunscreen misinformation from other trusted sources. In the video I go through articles from NPR, Vox, USA Today and The Mirror, explain what they got wrong, and what you should be doing instead, and discuss the other trusted sources with questionable info.

The full video is here. Here’s a very brief summary…

myths in sunscreen articles

Myths per article

USA Today: “What is mineral sunscreen? And why you may want to use it instead of chemical sunscreen.” (16 June 2023)

  • Myths: 4
  • Words: 572
  • Words per myth: 143 

NPR: “Picking the ‘right’ sunscreen isn’t as important as avoiding these 6 mistakes” (4 June 2023)

  • Myths: 7.5
  • Words: 1200
  • Words per myth: 160

The Mirror: “Doctor explains what SPF number on sunscreen really means – and how often to apply” (14 June 2023)

  • Myths: 6.5
  • Words: 760
  • Words per myth: 116.9

Vox: “7 burning questions about sunscreen, answered” (30 April 2023)

  • Myths: 10.5
  • Words: 1865
  • Words per myth: 177.6

These articles all quoted experts, and most also relied on other sources that you would expect to have correct information (American Academy of Dermatology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 

Common myths

Myths that appeared in more than one article:

  • “Physical sunscreens work by reflecting” (3)
  • “SPF 30 already blocks 97% of UV” (2)
  • “SPF means how long you can stay in the sun” (2)
  • “Sunscreen prevents cancer in dark skin” (2)
  • “Chemical sunscreen is far worse for marine life” (2)
  • “Chemical sunscreens absorb into skin to work” (2)
  • “UVA is more linked to cancer than UVB” (2)

Related post: Answering (Almost) Every Sunscreen Question

I’ve debunked many of these before in posts here – they’re all under the sunscreen category. This article is a good starting point for common sunscreen questions!

Skincare Guide

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1 thought on “Sunscreen myths in the media”

  1. I’ve noticed that I always get burned when I wear mineral sunscreens but not when I wear chemical sunscreens. A LOT of other pale people have told me the same thing happens to them. Even my esthetician — pale– says the same thing. Why does this happen?


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