3 Ways Your Sun Protection Can Backfire

3 Ways Your Sun Protection Can Backfire


[INTRO] Everyone with sunburn-prone skin, like myself,
has their own little tricks to steer clear of the sun’s ultraviolet wrath. It is, after all, a deadly laser! But some of the things people do to keep themselves
from getting burned aren’t nearly as effective as you might think. And long-term, some can be more dangerous
than just wearing enough sunscreen in the first place. Like for example wearing clothes. Tan lines might give you the impression that
all clothes are perfect sun blockers. But even though some clothes are better than
the best sunscreens, others don’t do very much at all. Sunburn and tans are both caused by the sun’s
ultraviolet light interacting with and damaging your skin in different ways. And some materials are better at blocking
UV than others. So jeans, for example, are pretty much perfect
for sun protection. Jeans block about 99.94% of UV, which means
you’d have to wear an SPF 1700 broad-spectrum sunscreen to do any better. Since they’re made of thick, tightly-woven
fabric, jeans happen to be especially good at blocking UV. And in general, most fabrics made with shiny,
synthetic, or tightly-woven fibers provide lots of UV protection. Polyesters, plastics, and nylons all generally
block at least 98% of UV light, which makes them at least as good as SPF 50 sunscreen. But then there are things like white cotton
shirts, which don’t block more than about 75% of UV. So they’re no better than about SPF 5. Which means that if you wear sunscreen on
any exposed skin — even if it’s just SPF 10! — the skin under a white cotton t-shirt
can burn before the rest of you does. So you can still get sunburned through some
clothes. Another surprising thing you can get sun damage
through is glass. Scientists split the UV that hits Earth’s
surface into two categories: UVA and UVB. Regular glass blocks UVB, the more energetic
kind of light that mainly causes sunburns and certain kinds of skin cancer. So you’re mostly safe from sunburns behind
a window. But that’s about where the good news ends,
because UVA, the less energetic type of UV, can pass through glass. UVA mainly causes tans, where your body releases
a light-absorbing chemical called melanin to stop the UVA from doing too much damage
to your skin cells. The melanin is what darkens your skin. But the cell damage from UVA can also lead
to skin aging, cataracts, and cancer. So even though you won’t get burned through
glass, you’re still at risk for more of all those problems on long road trips. Glass can be treated so that it also blocks
UVA. But in a car, the windshield is often the
only glass given the full UVA treatment. Tinted windows can also help a bit, but they’re
not always as helpful as just wearing regular sunscreen if you’re going for a long drive. But you know what’s even less helpful than
untreated glass? Getting a base tan. Tanning salons make tons of money convincing
customers that tanning before going out in the sun will keep their skin safer for longer
without any additional risks. There is some truth to this, because tanned
skin will take longer to burn. But it’s completely untrue that tans don’t
carry their own risks. Since darker skin has more melanin, it’ll
absorb more UV light and help protect against some of the damage that would eventually cause
a sunburn. But you can still get burned with a tan; it
just happens more slowly. And the cost of that tiny increase in sun
protection was exposure to lots of skin-aging, eye-damaging, immune-suppressing, cancer-causing
UVA while your body was building up melanin. Which is why indoor tanning in the United
States is linked to about four hundred thousand cancer cases annually. And that just doesn’t seem worth it. Maybe an industry whose time has come… Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow. If it made you want to cover up or just have
a good guide for which levels of SPF you should be using, check our SciShow beach towel at
DFTBA.com. It has a handy infographic about sunscreen
strength and some great little facts about pools and urine. Because, you know, science is sexy! [OUTRO]

100 Replies to “3 Ways Your Sun Protection Can Backfire”

  1. I hate sunscreen. I think it dyes hair white, destroys the reef and could contribute to degenerative diseases. I just manage my time in the sun.

  2. "A white T-shirt is only SPF 5" is demonstrably untrue. I'm a ginger man who was in the Boy Scouts, I spent a LOT of time outdoors, and I always swam in a white T-shirt to prevent sunburn. I also worked a summer in construction where I wore a white T-shirt and jeans every day. I never ONCE got burned through my shirt, nor developed freckles under it. If I wore SPF 5 sunscreen, I'd burn in 20 minutes (same as wearing none at all). I once got second-degree (as in, blisters) sunburn on my back from being outside without a shirt or sunscreen for less than an hour. I spent up to 6 HOURS continuously in the sun in a white t-shirt on numerous occasions without ever once getting burned or developing a single freckle. I had to apply "waterproof/sweatproof" SPF 30 every hour or less to keep my exposed skin to keep from burning. Clearly, T-shirts do not work the same way that sunscreen does, and saying they are "only SPF 5" is at best misleading, and at worst completely wrong.

  3. I stay the hell out of the sun. I take Vitamin D supplements and call it good. I can't stand how I look with even the slightest of a tan.

  4. Tinted car windows can also be illegal. Check your state or country's laws before tinting windows.

    Plus cops don't like it since they can't see inside as easily so they might not be as forgiving for that speeding ticket even if you tinted legally.

  5. I live in Saint Petersburg, on 60° latitude, but have 1/4 Southern roots (from Caucasus maybe). Used sunscreen only once in Bulgaria. Never sunburned

  6. I have a note from the doctor for my tinted windows. Knowing the actual protection provided by tinted auto windows is a mystery.

  7. i burn pretty easy and i have never burned through a shirt, but i dont wear many white shirts, so im guessing the pigments absorb a lot of it as well and prevent burns better than white shirts.

  8. I usually don't get sunburns if i don't stay in the sun for longer than 2 hours without putting on sunscreen (with sunscreen, i don't remember ever having gotten a sunburn). The only places where i always put on sunscreen is around water, because with the reflected sunlight from the surface i very quickly get sunburned.

  9. I came across a conspiracy theory that says it's the sunscreen that causes cancer, not the blistering UV light

  10. Base tans must do something to protect from the sun because a tan itself is a product of your skin making more melanin to protect itself from the sun.

  11. I wear standard cotton T-shirts and I noticed long ago that my skin is also lightly tanned under the shirt: I practically never wear sun screen because I don't go out for long, and a little bit of sunshine is good for you: the body needs sunshine for developing vitamin D. So, like everything else, know your limits and take everything in moderation.
    Edit: black people can also get sunburnt. Something I didn't always know.

  12. Your editor spelled laser wrong: Light Amplification through the S timulation of Electron Radiation.
    No Z in that phrase.

  13. Um… this ad.. protect yourself with sound magnetics and vortices… I'm thinking its a bit quacky… someone is taking advantage of your reputation for presenting good science.

  14. I’m a lifeguard, and a part of our uniform is what is called “protective clothing” that includes shirts, sunglasses, a visor, and maybe shorts. I was really shocked to find out that a white cotton shirt does not do more than the equivalent of an SPF 5. I thought the only reason they gave us such a thick shirt was to protect us from the sun… good thing I always put on sunscreen before my shift.

  15. That's why I wear my SPF 50 swim shirt and swim pants. The only exposed body parts are my hands, face, and feet. I apply SPF 50 to the exposed areas REPEATED. My kids (who I force to wear long sleeve swim shirts) make fun of me – I do NOT care. When I'm not in the water, I'm under my SPF 50 umbrella.
    Both my mother (who worked a full time job and was VERY rarely in the sun, and when she was, she used the highest SPF sunscreen available) and my aunt, who was ALWAYS trying to deepen her already VERY olive complected skin, were diagnosed with skin cancer MULTIPLE TIMES. Fortunately they were diligent and each malignancy was caught very early.
    And that, Hank, is why I'm the doofus on the beach covered from chin to ankles in my wonderful SPF 50 bathing suit.

  16. I have a friend who is vegan and antivax, and swears that her half Indian son doesn't need sunscreen, and that the aluminium in the sunscreen is extremely unhealthy. It would becnice to debunk her myths on the topic a little. I still put sunscreen on my child, still vaccinate and still haven't gone completely vegan, yet, but I try to hear her out, because she seems very convincing at times. I wonder what she is even talking about when she says that sunscreen can be more harmful than a sunburn. It kindof makes my head spin. I can tell you that much.

  17. Never forget that your dark skin offers protection but not immunity to sun burn.

    Some think pool chlorine is causing your skin to itch, but it's mildly likely mild sunburn.

  18. Please don’t edit out pauses in the speech. When there is no pausing, it wakes it harder to watch/listen to vids

  19. I used to be obsessed with getting the tan look, but I was always too afraid to go to a salon. Now I just embrace my pale skin! (With vitamin D supplements) 😛

  20. And on the Internet, there's a counter-view to everything: Sun is good for you, exhibit A:

    '… many experts in the rest of the world have already come around to the benefits of sunlight. Sunny Australia changed its tune back in 2005. Cancer Council Australia’s official-position paper (endorsed by the Australasian College of Dermatologists) states, “Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has both beneficial and harmful effects on human health…. A balance is required between excessive sun exposure which increases the risk of skin cancer and enough sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels…. It should be noted that the benefits of sun exposure may extend beyond the production of vitamin D. Other possible beneficial effects of sun exposure… include reduction in blood pressure, suppression of autoimmune disease, and improvements in mood.”'

    Source: https://www.outsideonline.com/2380751/sunscreen-sun-exposure-skin-cancer-science

  21. Thought I was gonna see sunscreen on the list. My sister in law works at a Melanoma research lab. The reason Melanoma is on the rise is cause of sunscreen. A sunburn is the bodies natural way of telling us we have been in the sun for too long. As sunscreen delays the burn, we are staying out in the sun for longer than our bodies can handle.

  22. I know girls who when they were 18 used the indoor tanning quite often, now their skin looks like that of an old lady's 🙁

  23. Our host for this video was genetically engineered to live in a bog where it’s always cloudy, cold and wet.

  24. Denim jeans, denim jacket, denim hat, denim shoes, denim gloves, denim face mask, denim underwear, denim socks.

    Ready for the beach!

  25. Everyone loves wearing denim in the summer. Stop that non sense. You don’t need to avoid sun but you shouldn’t burn either.

  26. Johana Budwigs cancer cure included sun bathing. She medically documented a plus 90% success rate in curing all types of cancer 100% natural

  27. There are clothes that are treated with sunscreen, and sunscreen treatments that you can get to enhance the sun blocking properties of your clothes.

  28. There is also uv treated clothing! For example, Land's End has really thin sweatshirts which are a godsend if you're like me and being in direct sunlight often gives you a rash

  29. 400,000 extra skin cancers annually from going to a tanning salon WOW. That is an insanely high number.
    Edit: I see in the list of sources above that the American Academy of Dermatology made the claim citing 'Researchers estimate'. Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence but this is thinner than tissue paper. It still could be correct but I would not cite it without something more substantial to back it up.

  30. don't listen to him my pasty friends. Any of us who have taken long summer car drives know full well we don't just stop at tanning through the glass

  31. 20 year old: I want to look dark and sexy! Same person at 40: which anti aging cream is best? Same person at 60: I need surgery and botox!

  32. Vitamin D comes from the sun. Want to talk about that or just keep talking about all the bad things about sunlight?

  33. #1 way to protect yourself from the sun:
    Don’t be stupid!!
    The story:
    I teach people how to ride motorcycles from March to November on the weekends. We are outside for about 6 hours on Saturday and another 6 hours on Sunday. Many of the people taking the class work indoors and spend very little time outside. We are all mostly covered from head to toe because we are riding motorcycles. However many people show up with half helmets and some women wear very deep V neck shirts. I tell and offer everyone sunblock while I’m putting some on myself and most accept the offer. Those that don’t I tell them that it’s fine if you don’t want to put on any sunblock today but you are not allowed to complain about your sunburn tomorrow.
    I had the stupidest thing ever said to me at one of these classes. A female student with the lightest skin I had ever seen a half helmet and a super deep V neck shirt showed up one Saturday in July. I said wow you will definitely need this, handing her the bottle of sunblock. She said to me and I quote “I won’t need that. My skin is white enough to reflect most of the sun’s rays.” By the end of the day on Saturday she looked like the reddest candy apple you have ever seen. She didn’t come back to class on Sunday.

  34. How about an episode on the effects of radiation caused by certain occupations? For example a welder if not protected propperly is exposed to UV-A UV-B and UV-C. Or the effects of depleted Uranium dust on soldiers that work with sabot penetrators and DU armor plating? Or peeople that have to work in a nuclear core?

  35. So I have a question, what about those artificial skin tanning sprays? Does that help with producing some kind of protection?

  36. I live in Australia with light skin and i take my shirt of and go into the sun every day.without cancer causing cloths and sun screen i am safe. People who get less sun get more cancer. But your skin needs to get use to sun bit by bit and dont use cancer causing chemicals the real culprit.

  37. But how about those thicker woven white cotton shirts with that wierd pattern of woven fibers, I suppose this is meant to block more uv, right?

  38. You forget something, please. Wear sunglasses, I used to think they are a fashion accessory but after getting my eyes burnt from the uv, I changed my mind. The eyes are more sensitive than skin is. Plus, you look damn cool wearing them. Add a leather cowboy hat to that and support second amendament. :))))

  39. When you are a small child be told you need sunscreen and then realize you spent 5 hours and never got a sunburn

  40. It's disturbing how many people in the comment section want the government to BAN things (like tanning beds). The government is not your friend. Educate the people, and let individuals make their own decisions.

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