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Suncare & Sunscreen Myths

Woman putting sunblock on her hand at the beach on a sunny day

One day last week a colleague and I had a difference of opinion. Her education was that sunscreen only broke down when exposed to the sun. My training told me that it breaks down naturally after application in 2-3 hours, no matter what. Well, this was something that needed to be addressed, as I most definitely did not want to be giving out false information.

So, after a little research (because that is what I do for fun!) I found out that we were both right…..and wrong. Sunscreen breaks down after exposure to the sun, but also due to sweat and oils found on the skin. Obviously a person who isn’t in the sun, has a dry skin type, and doesn’t work out is less likely to need to reapply sunscreen than those of us who have a normal/ combo skin or those who hit the gym.

With that question answered, I found that there are a lot of other misconceptions when it comes to sun protection. With scientific studies, these realities may lead to a healthier understanding of how and why sunscreen is a top priority for skin care providers across the country.

1.  Sunscreen can cause cancer

Some chemicals found in sunscreen have come under fire recently and have been blamed for an increased risk of developing cancer. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there is no evidence to make this link. What is known is that protecting the skin from the sun or avoiding it altogether is the best defence against skin cancer. For those still concerned with chemicals, it is best to switch to a formula with physical blockers like Elta MD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum, which doesn’t contain any chemicals.

 2.  Only fair skinned people need to use sunscreen

Darker skinned people may be less likely to burn, but no one is exempt from sun damage. As well, dark skinned people are more likely to develop hyperpigmentation such as melasma due to higher levels of melanin naturally in their skin. Keeping protection on the skin helps to prevent future pigment problems, maintain an even skin tone, and reduce wrinkles.

3.   I need the sun for Vitamin D

There has been increasing confusion over whether wearing sunscreen blocks the body from absorbing vitamin D. Experts say the amount of sun exposure required is minimal (e.g. 15min in the summer) to get the right amount of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also readily available in foods such as fish, milk, and eggs as well as supplements.

4.   Sunscreen is too greasy and it makes me break out

Medical grade sunscreens are generally a much nicer consistency for the skin due to higher quality ingredients. Look for oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas like Elta Defence. Formulas containing zinc or titanium are better tolerated on the skin, even those people who suffer from rosacea or acne.

5.   All sunscreens are the same

Definitely not! Sunscreen should say “broad spectrum’ to ensure you are getting the best full protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Quality and quantity of active ingredients varies as well.

6.   I only need sunscreen in the summer

Any time you are exposed to sunlight (even if you are in the car, driving) you should be wearing sunscreen. UV rays can pass through clouds, so even in overcast weather, sun protection is required. In winter, the sun can reflect off the snow or ice and be just as harmful to unprotected skin as it is in the summer.

~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre

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