This article will discuss some of the most common sun exposure and sunscreen myths. We’ll get into how sun protection applies in particularly important ways for preppers and homesteaders. We’ll also talk about tips for preventing sunscreen, and some sunscreen alternatives you can whip up in a pinch. Lastly, we’ll discuss some special considerations when it comes to sun protection for seniors, disabled folks, and people with limited mobility. Let’s dive right in with some myths to get started!
Myth 1: People with dark skin can’t get sun damage
Melanin, which gives skin its dark color, does provide protection from the sun—but it doesn’t make it impossible for the sun to damage the skin. Worse yet, darker skin makes it harder to identify when a sunburn is occurring, so olive and darker-complexioned people can be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking the damage isn’t occurring.
Myth 2: Overcast skies and the winter season keep you from getting damaged
Unfortunately, sunburns and sun damage, in general, can still occur when the sky is overcast. Likewise, you can get sun damage during the winter. Sunscreen should be worn year-round. Best Price: $14.22 Buy New $16.95 (as of 06:30 EST - Details)
Myth 3: Your skin isn’t damaged until you get a sunburn.
The fact of the matter is, if you have a tan, your skin has been damaged. Tanning is a physical response to sun damage. So, even if you don’t get burned, the “healthy tan” isn’t so healthy after all. A tan is specifically a response to the skin cells becoming damaged.
Myth 4: You need to get sun exposure or you’ll be Vitamin D deficient.
Thy myth is easy to fall prey to. Vitamin D is important, but incidental sun exposure usually keeps your body producing enough of it. Along with incidental exposure, foods like egg yolks give you all the vitamin D you need.
Myth 5: The more sun exposure, the more vitamin D you get.
Many sunbathers think “oof, I got a little sunburned. Well, at least I got my Vitamin D!” However, after about 20 minutes in direct sun, you actually begin having a negative effect in terms of what would have been the benefits from sun exposure. The window of sun exposure is very short before skin damage starts to occur.
You’ll no longer get any vitamin D benefit, and your immune system will start to not work as well. This is when the sun damage starts, either in a reddening of the skin, also known as sunburn, or a darkening of the skin, also known as a suntan.
Myth 6: Sunscreen will protect you.
Yes, sunscreen can be a great thing. But sunscreen is a complicated product, working to prevent a complex set of problems relating to a spectrum of radiation. They use a combination of minerals and chemicals to block that radiation, along with fragrances, fillers, and other components.
Without the right sunscreen, applied at the right times, you won’t be protected from the sun. For example, even “waterproof” sunscreens need to be reapplied very regularly to remain effective…re-applying every two hours might not even be enough, especially if you’re swimming or rolling around in the sand! Also, some sunscreens contain chemicals that are toxic in and of themselves.
For example, chemicals in sunscreens like oxybenzone can mimic hormones in the human body, potentially disrupting the endocrine system in both men and women. The effects of these hormone-disrupting chemicals might be particularly damaging for developing children. Measurable amounts of these chemicals can also be found in human breast milk, meaning pregnant women who absorb them could potentially be passing them onto newborns. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Best Price: null Buy New $50.00 (as of 01:10 EST - Details)
Look for zinc oxide or titanium oxide-based sunscreens that don’t use oxybenzone. These minerals protect against UVA and UVB rays (more on this next) and haven’t been shown to cause hormonal disruptions.
Myth 7: The higher the SPF, the more of the sun’s rays you’re protected against.
When most people are choosing a sunscreen, the SPF is the first thing they look at. And while knowing the SPF is helpful, what it actually means is widely misunderstood.
The sun gives off all kinds of radiation that can damage skin, but not all radiation is created equal. Different types of radiation have different wavelengths, and the sun gives off several. These include UVA and UVB rays. SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, only tells you how well you’ll be protected against UVB rays.
UVA rays are different, so look for a sunscreen that protects against both. Sometimes these will be labeled as providing “Multi-Spectrum” or “Broad-Spectrum” protection, but always confirm before buying, as these labels could be used misleadingly.
As for SPF, it alleges to describe how long you’ll be able to go without getting UVB-related sun damage compared to when you wear no sunscreen at all. The specifics are a bit complicated, but sunscreens with SPF above 30 aren’t meaningfully more effective. SPF 15 is a good minimum, but anything above 30 doesn’t offer an increased benefit.
Sun Exposure for Seniors & People with Disabilities
If you’re above 65 or have a disability, there are special concerns regarding sun exposure and damage. First off, the damage is cumulative, so older individuals have a higher potential for developing conditions like skin cancer.
Also, decreased mobility in seniors and the disabled means it may become difficult to apply sunscreen. If you will be going outside, it is important to have someone help you make sure all your exposed skin is covered. Long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection will make a big difference as well.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of myth that persists for some people in the 65 and above the crowd when it comes to sun protection. That myth is that since they didn’t spend a lot of time in the sun throughout their life, that they don’t have to worry about protecting themselves from it now that they’re a bit older. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $50.00 (as of 06:20 EST - Details)
It’s true that damage from the sun is cumulative in nature. But that doesn’t mean you should stop protecting yourself once you’re older. First off, older folks are more likely to have sensitive skin. And when it comes to cancer everyone is different, but you might have still gotten enough sunshine to develop melanoma even if you always wore sunscreen and weren’t a beach-goer or summer lover.
In addition, sun damage later in your life is still damage, and will still contribute to the likelihood of developing skin cancer at a time when it’s already more likely to occur. Add on to that the fact that sun damage rapidly accelerates aging, and you have more than a few good reasons to stay vigilant when it comes to sun protection.
Of course, on a homestead, in a SHTF scenario, or during a major economic crisis, sunscreen might not be easy to come by. To that end, we’ll discuss some alternatives next that you can keep your pantry stocked with. Some you might already have on hand. While imperfect, these sunscreen alternatives will be able to help you protect your skin when conventional store-bought sunscreens are hard to come by.