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Everything you need to know about sunscreen, according to a top Canadian dermatologist

Female hands with sunscreen at the beach. Skin care concep

Our very own Dr. Benjamin Barankin recently provided National Post with the inside scoop on sunscreens and sun protection.


As soon as the sun flashes us with some rays, Canadians immediately take to the outdoors. We know that skincare is important, but proper sun protection is not as obvious as smearing some lotion on faces in the morning. 

We spoke with Dr. Benjamin Barankin, Toronto dermatologist and medical director of Toronto Dermatology Centre, to fully understand how to navigate skin protection. 

“UVB rays cause sunburns (and tanning; in severe cases blistering); traditional sunscreens are best at blocking UVB. UVB is connected to the [sun protection factor] SPF, [and they] don’t penetrate glass,” Barankin says.

Do we need to protect ourselves from both?

Yes. Dr. Barankin emphasizes that it’s critical to protect from both and put extra emphasis on blocking out those UVA rays. However, not all sunscreens protect from UVA and UVB rays.

What sunscreen brands do you recommend?

Not only do we have to focus on getting the right sunscreen product, but we also need to ensure we’re using it correctly; reapplying every three to four hours. Dr. Barankin says we want a high-quality broad-spectrum sunscreen that is easily absorbed and has minimal or no residue (and minimal to no fragrance, which can irritate the skin…this was a twist…no more smelling like the beach). 

Do we need a different face and body sunscreen?

Dr. Barankin says that if you’re acne-prone, then go with a face sunscreen; they’re less comedogenic (fancy word for acne-causing). He stresses that it’s important to “find something you like and you’ll use and keep it handy everywhere that you might need it.”

Does sunscreen block us from absorbing vitamin D from the sun?

Yes, sunscreen slightly blocks vitamin D.

“In Canada, most people are deficient in vitamin D anyways due to long winters, and others have harder times absorbing it if elderly or darker skin or if wearing lots of clothes for religious reasons. Best to use sun protection, and take vitamin D as a supplement (and in your milk and other fortified foods),” Barankin shares.

Final thoughts

“The importance of sun avoidance (e.g. doing your outdoor work or exercise before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when the sun is weaker), wearing a good wide-brimmed hat (to cover nose and ears, common locations for skin cancer), and sunglasses (reduce cataracts caused by UV light). Seek shade where possible,” Barankin reminds us.

He recommends we, “Find an elegant and affordable sunscreen, and reapply it after towelling/getting wet/sweating or every three to four hours if out and about. Make sure you apply enough sunscreen too! — most people only put on about a half of what they need to…so, put on what you normally do, and then do it again!” 

Credit: Randi Mann, National Post

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