Skin cancer and sun safety mythbusters

myth v factThink you know it all when it comes to sun safety? We list the most common sun safety myths in New Zealand and why they are all busted.

The following information comes from SunSmart NZ’s education program.

Getting sunburnt is just part of being a Kiwi in summer


Sunburn isn’t part of our Kiwi culture and it isn’t “cool”. It’s painful and ugly and it stops you doing the things you like because you need to stay inside while your skin is sore and healing. Burning and peeling are signs that you have damaged your skin, even if your skin tans later. Sunburn damages your skin and can lead to skin cancer – how is that “just being a Kiwi”?

girl with a mirror
 Have you had your skin checked?

Sun-tanning is a healthy way to look good


There is no such thing as a “healthy way to tan”. If your skin tans or turns brown, it’s a sign that your skin has been damaged. The cells in your skin are ageing faster when they are damaged like this, so that you soon begin to look older than you should. Ewwww.

I can’t get sunburnt if I have a tan


A tan is not like sunscreen – it’s not a barrier between your skin and the UV rays. If you have a tan, you have already got sunburn or skin damage without noticing it.

I don’t need to wear sunscreen on cloudy days


The sun is fierce, bro! Even on cloudy days, it shines through with UV radiation levels high enough to cause sunburn. In fact, UV levels are sometimes actually higher on cloudy days because you get more light reflection off the bottom of the clouds.

Sunscreen kid
 Kids playing with fire without sunscreen

I don’t need to wear sunscreen on cold days


Seriously, fierce as, bro! It’s easy to get sunburnt when the wind is blowing because it makes you feel so cold that you forget the sun is even shining on you. But it is.

I use sunscreen, so I’m protected from skin damage and can stay out in the sun all day


Sunscreen is not magic fairy dust, although it really helps a lot. It cuts out around 96 to 98% of UV rays hitting your skin, but what about the other 4%? And what about when your sunscreen is wearing off but you haven’t noticed yet? You still need to wear a hat, sunnies and a long-sleeved shirt, and hang out in the shade whenever you can.

I can’t get sunburnt because my skin is too dark


Even dark skin can burn and get skin damage. And even if your skin is safe, your eyes still need protection from sun damage. Unless you want cataracts, wear a hat and UV protection sunnies.

My skin looks great, so I must not have any skin damage


You can’t see skin damage on the surface. UV light will show up all the damage you can’t see. Check it out on So protect your skin now, so that it still looks great when you’re 50.

I can’t get sunburnt when I’m inside my car behind the glass


Glass reduces some UV light but doesn’t block it all out. So slop on some sunscreen before you start your road trip, and reapply it every 2 hours when you stop for a snack and toilet break!

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