Knowing the whats, wheres and whys of sunscreen means you’ll be able to enjoy the brilliant days of summer safely.
By Doris Montanera
For weekdays at the office, a moisturizer or foundation with SPF 15 is probably enough, says Dr. Paul Cohen, a Toronto dermatologist. But if you’re outside in the summer, wear at least an SPF 30. If your foundation’s SPF doesn’t go that high (most don’t), slather on sunscreen before applying your morning makeup. If your fair-skinned or have a history of cancer, go higher.
2. BUY THE NUMBERS
“SPF 30 gives approximately 97 percent protection, while SPF 45 gives approximately 98 percent, so the one percent makes, on a practical level, little difference,” says the Toronto derm Dr. Lisa Kellett. But we tend not to use enough sunscreen, so it’s a good idea to wear a higher number as insurance since spreading sunscreen too thinly diminishes its SPF factor. It takes about half a teaspoon of sunscreen to cover your face and neck and at least an ounce or shot glass of lotion to cover an average-sized body. Apply it at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. If you’re outside, sweating or swimming, you need to reapply every couple of hours.
3. UVA VS. UVB
SPF rates a product’s protection against UVB rays, but UVA rays are damaging, too. They cause cancer, are just as damaging, wrinkle-wise, and penetrate glass. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both types, although how much they guard against UVA rays is not measured. We say that it’s better to be safe than sorry, so look for these broad-spectrum creams, gels and sprays, especially if you are an outdoors or beach lover and your sun exposure tends to be long and intense.
4. BEST BETS
Alcohol-based sprays are best if you have oily skin or are spraying in hairy areas such as your guy’s furry chest or legs, says Kellett. Creams are ideal for drier skin types. Look for Mexoryl, Tinosorb and oxybenzone, effective ingredients approved by Health Canada. They help provide photo-stability, which helps the sunscreen’s UV filters last longer. But check the expiration date on your sunscreen and, most importantly, make sure your bottle has a drub identification number (DIN), which means it is registered with Health Canada.
5. POP A PILL
Alternative ways to get protection are in the works. The Canadian brand Isomers is coming out with a body wash later this year with SPF in it: Use it in the shower and SPF remains. Available in the U.S., but still pending approval by Health Canada, is St. Ives cleanser with similar SPF technology. Researchers are also working on sunscreen vitamins. For now, there’s Heliocare, a pill that combines green tea, beta carotene and a natural fern extract. It’s supposed to help prevent sunburns by boosting your body’s natural ability to battle the sun’s rays.