The latest information on how to keep your family out of the pink
Every summer Canadians shed layers of clothing to soak up the sun – but as we all know, there’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ tan. Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett, the founder of DLK on Avenue in Toronto and a Canadian Dermatology Association spokesperson, answers some sun-safety questions.
I don’t get a chance to put sunscreen on my kids till they’re running out the door. Does it need more time to absorb?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: It’s best to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure to ensure adequate protection the minute your children step outside.
PC: Is one type of sunscreen more effective than another?
LK: Sunscreen can be
divided into two main categories: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients such as cinnamates, benzophenones and salicylates that absorb into skin and fend off UV light. Physical sunscreens sit on the skin’s surface and contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that reflect, block and shield the skin from UV rays. Both provide effective protection individually, and now many sunscreens combine the different types of ingredients for optimal protection.
PC: What type of sunscreen should I use on my family?
LK: Everyone in your family may have their own preference for sunscreen, whether it’s different formulations or brands. The differences are not in the actual content, since they all contain the same vital ingredients but are formulated differently for various skin types and sensitivities. Waterproof formulations are best for those who swim, exercise outside or perspire excessively. Using a sunscreen that is a clear spray is a better choice for men in hair producing areas and for people who have a tendency to acne breakouts.
PC: Does sunscreen interfere with vitamin D absorption?
LK: Sunscreen blocks the penetration of the sun’s rays. Since the sun is necessary for vitamin D synthesis, your body produces less vitamin D when you’re wearing sunscreen. Approximately 80,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually in Canada. While vitamin D has been shown to help prevent breast and colorectal cancer, just a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure every day could greatly increase the risk of skin cancer. In other words, in terms of your risk of getting cancer, it’s safer to take oral vitamin D supplements.
PC: Besides using sunscreen, how can I prevent myself and my children from getting a tan or sunburn?
LK: You and your children should always wear a hat with a brim wide enough to shade the face and back of the neck. Ideally, it would have a six-inch brim so the chest is protected too. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the front of the neck, and always wear proper sun-protective clothing. Proper sun-safety practices are especially important for children, who get the majority
of their lifetime sun exposure by the age of 18.
PC: Are waterproof sunscreens really waterproof?
LK: A waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen is highly recommended if you participate in water sports. It isn’t 100 percent effective, however, so you should reapply it every couple of hours.
PC: Is SPF 15 still effective or should I be using SPF 30 or higher?
LK: The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends using SPF 30 for adequate protection.
Published June 2010