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Fact-checking your questions about sunscreen

Does sunscreen expire? Do people with darker skin tones still need to apply sunblock? The experts verify what you need to know to protect your skin

ATLANTA — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and the Verify team is looking into some common claims when it comes to protecting your skin from the summer sun. 

RELATED: Yes, spray sunscreen is as effective as lotion sunscreen, but both must be applied correctly to work best




Do you still need sunscreen when it's cloudy?

This is true.

It's indeed true that individuals should apply sunscreen when it's cloudy or cool, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology, many Americans don't realize it. According to the academy's website, only around 20% of Americans use sunscreen on cloudy days, when in reality the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long. 

As a result, experts emphasize protection all the time is important, especially at peak hours. 

"You want to avoid the sun between the hours of 10 am and 4pm, and that's because the UV rays are at their highest during that time," Heather Mackey with the Prevent Cancer Foundation, explained. "Making sure that you're wearing sun protective clothing to help reduce the exposure of those UV rays on your skin are important."


Does sunscreen expire?

This is true.

This one is also true, so individuals are advised to double check the sunblock's expiration date before venturing out for the day. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, and that window can be even shorter if it's been exposed to high temperatures. 

"In the future, if you buy a sunscreen that lacks an expiration date, write the purchase date directly on the bottle so that you know when to toss it out," the AAD advised on its website. 


Is is true that people with with darker skin tones don't need to wear sunscreen true?

This is false.

Dr. Vanessa Richardson said such claims are absolutely false. 

"It's important to wear sunscreen regardless of your skin type or skin color," Richardson continued. "Melanin does have some protective effect against the sun, but it's not 100% and people of color do get skin cancer. It's not very common, but it does happen."

"There is no one that is immune to the potential of developing of skin cancer," Mackey agreed. "It does happen more often in those...that are fair skinned, but it can absolutely happen in people of color."

The Prevent Cancer Foundation also recommends monthly skin checks to promote early detection of possible signs of melanoma. Use the ABCDEs of skin cancer to check your skin, and if you see a mole that concerns you, see your health care provider right away. 

Use this ABCDE rule when looking at moles:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularity
  • Color that is not uniform
  • Diameter greater than 6mm
  • Evolving size, shape or color

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