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  • Dr. Melyssa Hoitink, ND

Top 5 Sun Safety Misconceptions

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

With the long weekend coming up and the warm weather finally gracing us with it's presence, sun safety should be top on your priority list! ☀️ Read on for some common misconceptions regarding safety in the sun.

❌ Misconception #1: Spray sunscreens provide better protection from sunburns.

While spray sunscreens are convenient, it is easy to leave skin bare in places. It is also possible that sprays do not coat the skin as well as lotions do, providing less protection than a sunscreen in lotion form. The biggest issue with spray sunscreens is that you cannot control where you're spraying them (especially when outside in the breeze) and a significant amount of sunscreen can be inhaled, leading to potential respiratory issues.

❌ Misconception #2: I need to be outside in the sun all day for my skin to produce enough Vitamin D.

This is a common concern in Canada, where we don't get enough sunlight with adequate amounts of UVB rays to produce appreciable amounts of Vitamin D in most months of the year. In the late spring, summer, and early fall, Vitamin D synthesis requires only 5-15 minutes of bare skin exposure (arms and legs uncovered, no sunscreen, in direct sunlight) around midday (10am-2pm) several times per week. The amount of vitamin D produced is affected by several factors, including skin tone and age. The amount of time required for Vitamin D synthesis is much less than the amount of time it takes for your skin to turn red and burn, in most people.

❌ Misconception #3: There is no difference between different sunscreen brands.

Some of the most popular sunscreen brands are loaded with harmful chemicals. Our skin is our biggest organ and it absorbs almost anything we apply to it. Oxybenzone is an ingredient commonly used in sunscreens and has been shown to distrupt human hormone balance (also known as an endocrine disruptor). It is also suspected that Oxybenzone builds up in human tissues and isn't excreted well. This is particularly concerning in children. The Environmental Working Group has released their 2019 Guide to Sunscreens (check it out here: https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/), where you can read about the harms associated with specific sunscreen ingredients and which to choose instead. Many healthier sunscreens are available at health food stores or online. (Hint: Mineral sunscreens containing Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are ideal. Bonus: Zinc is used topically to treat many different skin conditions, so you may get clearer skin out of making a healthier switch.)

❌ Misconception #4: If I have a "base tan" I won't burn.

Colour changes to the skin, even before skin has turned red, signals that skin has been damaged by the sun. Much of the damage to our skin we accumulate over time isn't visible to the naked eye, but is visible under UV light. This video shows how skin can appear with the naked eye, under UV light, and the effect of applying sunscreen to protect skin: https://www.youtube.com/embed/o9BqrSAHbTc

❌ Misconception #5: I don't need to protect my eyes from the sun.

Your eyes are just as susceptible to sun damage as your skin. UV radiation from the sun can damage the delicate structures at the back of your eye (responsible for your vision) and can lead to the development of cataracts. The good news is that glass (from sunglasses) block UV light from entering the eyes.

If you're spending time on the water and are bothered by glare, opt for polarized lenses. Polarized lenses do not add any additional UV protection, but increase visibility, as well as reduce squinting and discomfort. My favourite, affordable polarized sunglasses are from Mark's Work Wearhouse (no affiliation), but many sunglass retailers carry polarized lenses.

Wishing everyone a (sun) safe and healthy Canada Day Weekend!


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