If you're Latina, you probably remember your mami baking out in the sun any chance she got in order to look like a bronze belleza. The problem is that many of our moms, tias, and abuelas thought our tropical roots and pigmented skin meant we were automatically shielded from the sun, but just because you don't leave la playa looking like a lobster doesn't mean your skin isn't affected. Dermatologist Dr. Omar Torres shares some of the myths his Latino clients swear by, and why they aren't true.
1. FALSE: Having ethnic or darker skin makes you immune to skin cancer. Repeat after me: The sun's harmful rays affect everyone, no matter what shade they are, so you must apply SPF daily. Not only will you be protecting yourself from skin cancer, but the sun is the main cause of blemishes and wrinkles, Torres warns. If you really want to look like J.Lo when you're 44, SPF is essential.
2. FALSE: If you don't get sunburned, you won't get skin cancer. It is true that the darker you are, the less likely you are to get sunburned because the pigment of your skin serves as a barrier. However, having darker skin doesn't protect your skin from sun damage overall, nor does it mean you can't get skin cancer. "Remember that most of the sun damage comes from the everyday exposure and not only from getting burned," Torres says. It's always important to protect your skin from both types of ultraviolet rays — type A and type B (UVA and UVB). No matter your skin tone, Torres suggests using all-in-one skin care products, like daily moisturizers that incorporate SPF. Try Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30.
3. FALSE: You really only need to apply sunscreen at the beach. A lot of Latinas tend to think their skin only needs protection in the summer when they are lying in the sand. Not only is it important to apply sunscreen all year round every time you leave the house — even if you're just walking to the gorcery store — it is especially important to apply it every two hours while at the beach or pool, and also every time you get wet or sweat it off, Torres says.
4. FALSE: You can't apply moisturizer if you use sunscreen. Actually, it is very important that you also moisturize your skin. "Applying a generous amount of sunscreen is a must but you can't forget that it's also important to moisturize, especially when you're exposed to harsh sun rays and warm weather," Torres says. This is especially important to keep your skin renewed after being in the sun for long hours or in water. It helps prevent premature skin damage and keep the skin smooth. Apply your moisturizer before you apply sunscreen, or try using a moisturizer that has SPF in it, like Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer with Sunscreen.
5. FALSE: Applying tanning oil over sunscreen means you can tan without worrying about getting burned. A lot of Latinas make the mistake of thinking it's OK to bake in the sun as long as they just layer tanning oil over sunblock. "The ingredients in these oils can also interact with the sunscreen and make it ineffective, so it is not a good idea to mix them up," Torres says. In general, stay away from tanning oils because they are meant to attract the sun to your skin, which is what you should be trying to avoid.