It’s summer again here in Munich and everyone is outside enjoying beer gardens and playgrounds and hikes in the Alps… Which means it’s time to talk about sunscreen. Are you confused by the alphabet soup of letters and numbers? We’ve done some research for you to help you sort through the myths and facts about sunscreen. We will also recommend you a few products readily available in Munich!
Myth: If I didn’t get burned, no damage occurred
Fact: There are two types of UV rays — UVA and UVB. UVB rays are what causes sunburn and damage to the topmost layers of skin. UVA rays are what causes deeper skin damage. This damage often is not seen immediately but is what causes aging and skin cancer.
Myth: Sunscreen is all I need to protect myself from damage
Fact: You should also wear a hat and sunglasses. Be safe & stylish ladies! UV rays damage your eyes. If you need to squint, damage is occurring. Clothing with UV protection is now available for both kids and adults and is a great option, especially in swimwear.
Myth: I use a once-a-day sunscreen. That will protect me all day!
Fact: After 8 hours the effectiveness of sunscreen is reduced by 75%. No matter what type you use, you need to reapply at least every 90-120 minutes (more often if you are using less than 30 SPF). Make sure to apply 10 minutes before going out into the sun.
Myth: My foundation has SPF in it so I am protected
Fact: You need around half a teaspoon of sunscreen to protect your face. Unless we’re going for a very unnatural look, we just don’t wear enough foundation to provide protection. Imagine you need about a full shot glass to protect your body! For the same reason, avoid aerosol sprays. It’s impossible to know how much product you are actually applying and usually, it’s too little. Spray sunscreens that are liquid in a pump bottle do work, but you should spray into your hand before applying so that you know how much you are applying.
Myth: I use waterproof sunscreen so don’t need to reapply
Fact: Waterproof formulas do provide some extra protection from rubbing and sweat but largely are washed off in water or with major sweating. You always need to reapply after swimming or sports.
Myth: I only need sunscreen on sunny days
Fact: UVA rays pass through clouds. You may not see a burn, but they still damage the skin. In addition, there are many other sources of UV rays:
- UV Lamps (especially used in nail salons, have been shown they can cause nail cancer)
- Computer and TV screens
- Bug zappers
- Fluorescent light and mercury vapor light bulbs
Myth: I only need to worry about the sun in summer
Fact: Some of the worst burns happen in winter, especially when the sun reflects off the snow. When you are high up in the mountain, you have to be as careful as you would be near the beach or a lake.
Myth: I have a huge supply from Costco so I’m set!
Fact: Most US sunscreens do not adequately protect against UVA rays — they are only measured for UVB protection. Buy your sunscreen in Munich to get one that meets stronger European standards and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, sunscreen ingredients break down quickly and do not last more than 12 months. We recommend buying small bottles if you plan to bring them from the US. Not only will you use them up before they lose effectiveness, but you can use trial and error to find one that works best for you and your family.
Recommendations for children
It’s especially important to protect your children – most damage causing cataracts occurs in childhood and most skin cancer begins with damage from childhood. There are many excellent brands available in local Munich drug- and grocery stores. A few of our favorites are:
- DM’s Alverde brand – Excellent product but tends to leave deodorant-like marks on clothing
- Nivea Kleider Schutz – This is a fantastic product designed to not leave marks on your clothing
- Garnier Dry Touch – Available in sand-proof cream or spray. Remember to spray into your hand first!
Recommendations for adults
We recommend buying different products for face and body, as the skin on your body usually is not as sensitive as on your face. Sunscreen needs to go all the way to your lash line to protect fully, so you want something that doesn’t irritate your face and eyes. We recommend using trial and error to find one that works best for you.
For your body, most of the same brands that make children’s sunscreen make a good adult version.
For your face, the French pharmacy brands are usually a good bet. Avene, La Roche Posay, Vichy, and Bioderma all make good products and are available in most Munich pharmacies. Look for products that are fragrance-free and have a symbol showing both UVB and UVA protection.
And a few tips especially for ladies:
- Wear sunscreen under your makeup and cleanse your skin twice after wearing sunscreen. The first time removes the sunscreen; the second cleanses your skin.
- After a facial or any skin procedure, avoid the sun. Wear a hat and stay inside if possible. In general, we recommend you try to avoid products containing acids, Vitamin A or Vitamin C in summer as they make skin more sensitive to the sun.
- Acne-prone skin needs sunscreen even more than non-acne-prone skin. Sun will worsen scarring and irritation because pigment clings to scar tissue.
- If you have melasma (i.e., the dark spots that often come with pregnancy), try to avoid the sun on those areas and always wear a hat. The slightest UV will darken these spots further.
We hope that helps you solve the mystery of what to buy and how to protect yourself and your family during the glorious (and short) Bavarian summer!
Anne Frazier Ahrens came to Munich as a single gal from Texas with a successful career in finance. A decade later, she’s still here… now a married, full-time mom to a daughter with Down Syndrome and a very full social calendar. Since trading investor meetings for coffee dates, she’s enjoying having more time to explore all that Munich has to offer – and continues her quest to visit all of Munich’s beer gardens.