Be Sun Smart

After a hot long weekend, summer in Toronto has officially started! I was lucky enough to spend the long weekend up north at Sauble Beach filled with friends, laughter, relaxation and tons of sun! Even though the sun puts us in a better mood (sunshine is the main source of vitamin D in the body) and gets us outside and moving, it also has negative consequences. These include premature aging as well as skin cancer. We all know we are suppose to wear sunscreen everyday but are sunscreens safe?

What does SPF mean anyways? 
  • SPF 30, for example, means that it would take your skin 30 times longer to get burnt or red if you were not wearing any sunscreen at all. If your skin usually takes 10 minutes to get red without sunscreen on with SPF30 it would take you 300 minutes for your skin to turn red. 
  • However, to get this protection you would need to lather on the sunscreen as thick as icing. 
  • Therefore the American Academy of Dermatology recommends to choose an SPF of 50 in order to provide the most protection. 
  • The FDA proposed that an SPF above 50 is misleading to consumers and that there is no research to show additional clinical benefit above SPF50.  
  • It is best to re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours in order to get the most protection.  
What is UVA and UVB?
  • UVA rays cause wrinkles, premature aging, contribute to skin cancer and cause tanning. Everyday we are exposed to UVA rays and therefore we must protect ourselves everyday even if it is cloudy outside. UVA rays get through the clouds and can even penetrate our windows.
  • UVB rays cause sunburns and contribute to skin cancer. These rays are the most intense from 10am to 4pm especially during the spring and summer months. 
 Sunscreen Safety:  
Some sunscreens have been labelled as harmful and even dangerous due to some of their ingredients. Below is a list of ingredients in sunscreens to avoid: 
  • Retinyl Palmitate - is a derivative of vitamin A and provides no UV protection. Some studies have shown that it increases the likelihood of developing skin cancer. 
  • Nanoparticles - such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; these ingredients may cause skin irritation and have been known to penetrate through the skin and show up in the bloodstream and liver. 
The FDA states: “to date, there are no clinical studies demonstrating that use of any sunscreen alone can prevent skin cancer” (FDA 2011).

The National Cancer Institute says that “it is not known if non-melanoma skin cancer risk is decreased by staying out of the sun, using sunscreens or wearing protective clothing when outdoors. This is because not enough studies have been done to prove this” (National Cancer Institute 2011).

Bottom Line: 
Don't give up on sunscreens altogether! Despite the uncertainties, the National Cancer Institute and the FDA still recommend using sunscreen. Sunscreen should not be your only source of protection - you should protect your body with hats, light layers, umbrellas, shade as well as avoiding midday sun.

Happy Summer!


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