7 sun safety tips from a dermatologist

Sunscreen and sun safety tips from dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki
doctor dermatologist Sandy Skotnick
Dr. Sandy Skotnicki

We admit that when it comes to sunscreen, we tend to buy whatever is on sale at Whole Foods. But this summer, we’re getting smarter about sun protection. We asked Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, one of Canada’s top dermatologists, to tell us what we need to know about sunscreen and sun protection. Her answers just might surprise you (and have you running to the drugstore for a new bottle of sunscreen).

Let the sunshine in:

When’s the best time to apply sunscreen?

"If you are using a sunscreen with titanium or zinc only, you can apply just before you go outside. Sunscreens that contain chemicals like Parsal 1789 or Benzophenone need to absorb into the skin and should be applied at least 30 minutes before you head outside so they are completely absorbed. I tell my patients to apply their sunscreen when they get dressed, that way you don't forget and you get all the areas. As far as time of the day, the UV index is usually the greatest between 11am and 3pm, so using sunscreen at these hours is very important."

What sunscreen ingredients should I avoid like the plague?

"At this point I do not think any chemical sunscreens need to be avoided. There is a lot of controversy about Benzophenone and at this stage the jury is still out. When patients ask me I tell them if they really want to avoid them there are many choices today and they easily can." 

Will UPF clothing really protect me from the sun?

"Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a relatively new rating designation for sun protective textiles and clothing, basically it's similar to SPF but for clothing. Sun protective clothing is a great option and I encourage it. Unfortunately the standards are not regulated as strictly as SPF. I recommend only one company, Solumbra. They were the only FDA approved clothing line. If you wear a good sun protective clothing garment you do not need to wear a sunscreen under it."

I’m sweaty from yoga, what now?

"It’s always hard to apply a cream when you are sweaty. Cool off first or bring a hat and coverup if you are walking home. Alcohol sprays are always useful in these circumstances and can be sprayed on when a bit sweaty. The protection factor is always suspect, but it is better than no protection."

What should I look for in a natural sunscreen?

"I don't really like the term "natural." Most natural brands are not 100 percent natural and contain similar filler ingredients to brand names. What most people want to avoid in sunscreens are the chemical subgroup of sunscreen molecules that have to absorb into the skin to function as a sunscreen, like Parsal 1789 or Benzophenone. Look for titanium and zinc sunblocks when you want good protection without chemicals absorbing into the skin. They sit on the skin’s surface, reflect UV light and do not absorb it inside the skin."

Crap. I’m sunburned. What should I do now?

"Use a cool compress to decrease the temperature of the skin and slow any more damage. Apply aloe vera gel or corticosteroid (cortisone) cream to decrease skin inflammation. Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen. Moisturize with fragrance-free moisturizer and do not use anesthetic creams."

We’re heading to a yoga festival this weekend, any sun safety tips for us?

"Go early or later in day. Try to avoid peak times of high UV index like 11am-3pm. Seek shade and wear a hat. As long as you use sunscreen properly and do not burn you can play outside and be safe!"


Carrot Seed Oil

I use drops of carrot seed oil in coconut oil as a sunscreen as it is said to have an SPF protection of about 38-40. What do you think about carrot seed oil as a sunscreen? How often should I be reapplying it?

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