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Why people don't wear sunscreen: Overcoming 6 common concerns

Despite years of public health information about the importance of wearing sunscreen, many people skip one of the most essential steps in protecting their health — they don't wear sunscreen on a regular basis.

According to a 2020 RealSelf report, only 11% of Americans wear sunscreen daily. But why? Here, we break down six common sunscreen complaints that contribute to sun protection negligence, and provide tips for those pain points. (Often, this comes down to choosing the right sunscreen for you.)

But first, we offer a reminder about why wearing sunscreen is so crucial!

Why you should always use sun protection

When you look at the science, the many benefits of using sunscreen become clear. Here are just a few reasons it’s important to wear sunscreen. 

  • Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.
  • People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily show 24 percent less skin aging than those who do not use sunscreen daily
  • Proper sunscreen use aids in sunspot prevention. 

The research is very clear about the importance of using sun protection. Despite this evidence, studies show that many American adults still don't wear sunscreen. 

6 common reasons why people don't wear sunscreen

Even people who know that sunscreen is essential for limiting UV exposure sometimes don't wear sunscreen. From our conversations, we’ve found six of the most common reasons for skipping daily sun protection.

1. Sensitive skin

Many people with sensitive skin forego sunscreen out of concern about developing a reaction.

If you have sensitive skin, reactions are always top of mind. The truth is that some sun protection products are more irritating than others. Look for gentle options — often labeled as hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, and have third-party test results you can view — that offer protection without causing discomfort.

2. Greasy-feeling sunscreens

Even those without sensitive skin or allergies don't want to feel heavy, greasy sunscreen on their skin all day.

Many new, lightweight sunscreens avoid this problem, but it can be difficult to tell how a sunscreen will feel without testing it out yourself. We know: Our co-founder Carylyne tested over 100 sunscreens in her quest for one that she can actually wear daily! (Which was the standout? Trick question! There was no clear winner, so she started Clair Obscur to make the sunscreen she always wanted.) 

3. Not in the habit

Some of us grew up in households where the skincare routine involved washing your face with harsh soap and water, and nothing more.

We now know that this is not the best way to care for our skin. Sunscreen is the most essential part of any skincare regimen — more important than any serum or night cream you might be loyal to — yet for many people, it hasn’t yet become a part of the daily routine.

The sooner you incorporate sunscreen into your morning regimen, the healthier your skin will be. 

4. Natural protection

Some people, especially those with darker skin tones, may feel they have natural protection from the sun and therefore don't wear sunscreen. Even with darker skin, however, it’s still possible to develop hyperpigmentation from sun exposure. So if you have a dark complexion, you’ll still want to invest in high-quality sun protection.

5. Desire for a tan

The idea of tanned skin radiating a “healthy glow” has strong roots in American culture. Unfortunately, that has resulted in high rates of skin cancer for people who have spent years seeking out that perfect golden tan.

Trends are changing, and more people are forgoing bronzed skin now in exchange for more youthful looking skin later.

6. Fear of chemicals

If you are skipping sunscreen because of fears about chemical exposure, you can relax. Well-formulated products allow you to safely and gently protect your skin without slathering it in layers of potentially dangerous chemicals.

We understand you don’t want to trade one risk for another, and you don’t have to. Today’s options include both mineral and chemical sunscreens, and many are formulated with safe ingredients. We know it can be confusing, which is why we are trying to demystify sunscreen ingredients. 

If you don't wear sunscreen, now is a great time to start

People who don't wear sunscreen regularly offer various reasons for their decision, such as concerns about chemicals or sensitive skin. However, UV exposure can have serious consequences.

It’s never too late to start wearing sunscreen to protect your skin and health.