Here’s What A Dermatologist Wants You To Know About Common Sunscreen Myths


If you’re weighing the pros and cons of whether you should wear daily sunscreen, you’ll quickly see it’s a lopsided list. There are no cons. Every time you slap on SPF, you protect your health and contribute to better skin. And honestly, unless you live in a cave, it’s impossible to outwit the sun’s rays. Case in point, Gwyneth Paltrow just received backlash from derms about her bogus sunscreen application method (TLDR: sunscreen is not highlighter). So, using the right product, the right way #everydamnday is key to helping you be the best version of yourself. We caught up with Toronto dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll to debunk common sunscreen myths and replace them with smart, new thinking. We’re believers, I mean, have you seen the good doc’s skin?!

Sunscreen Myth #1: I never burn, so I don’t need to wear sunscreen

Doc’s Debunk: Burning comes from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and these don’t penetrate as deeply into the skin as ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. So even if you don’t get that signal of sun damage from the burns, you’re still getting UVA rays that are going deeper into the skin. And, it’s UVA that is most responsible for skin aging and a contributing factor to skin cancer.

Sunscreen Myth #2: Wearing sunscreen is dangerous because it blocks vitamin D

Doc’s Debunk: A lot of people are worried that using sunscreen might lead to vitamin D deficiency. The idea is that sunscreen blocks the ultraviolet light that skin needs to make vitamin D, which is important for bone health. But you actually need a lot less ultraviolet than you think to make vitamin D.  And, really, if getting vitamin D is important to you, you don’t want to leave it up to chance that you might get the right amount of vitamin D from the sun anyway. Science says, in order to get your daily vitamin D, you need to be exposed to the sun for about 15 minutes. But that really depends on the latitude and the season, and because we have such variability in latitude and seasons, it’s hard to get the right amount. So, I tell people that the best and most consistent way to get vitamin D is through daily supplements or through foods that are rich in the vitamin (salmon, tuna , mackerel, cheese or fortified milk).

Sunscreen Myth #3: If I wear an SPF 50, then I don’t have to reapply as often

Doc’s Debunk:  It’s probably true, but not advice I like to give to patients because it’s hard to know on what days it’s OK to apply an SPF50 just once and on what days it’s more important to reapply. There are a lot of factors at play. For instance, if it’s a cloudy day you may think you’re covered with a solo application, but then at the end of the day you find out that you have a sunburn. You just don’t know all the different exposures you’re going to have throughout the day. Best to stick to the standard rule: Reapply every two hours and if you sweat or get wet.

#shopthestreet: Spot My UV is a UV detection sticker that will tell you when it’s time to reapply your sunscreen. Apply it to skin that will be exposed to the sun (under a bra strap doesn’t count!), apply your sunscreen and see it turn clear in about a minute. Kinda like a pregnancy test, it changes colour. It will go from clear to a faded purple to let you know that losing protection. See a rich purple and it’s past the time to reapply! (8 in a pack for $10 at pharmacies.)

Sunscreen Myth # 4: Waterproof sunscreen means I don’t have to reapply after swimming

Doc’s Debunk:  Well, there’s actually no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen; sunscreens are only made to be water resistant. On some products you’ll see Water Resistant 40 or Water Resistant 80. What those numbers mean, is that it’s water resistant up to 40 minutes or 80 minutes. After that, you need to reapply. Also, you need to reapply after you get swim and towel off.

Sunscreen Myth #5: If I put on sunscreen in the a.m. but never go out, it’ll “keep” all day

Doc’s Debunk:  It would be true if you put on sunscreen and then literally sat in a dark room for the rest of the day, but there are a couple things that come to mind, mainly,  “Are you sitting by a window in your house or are you out in your car?” For both of those situations the UVA light is still getting through the glass. So, while you’d be protected from the burns (because UVB can’t penetrate glass), you wouldn’t be protected from the ultraviolet rays which go deeper that cause the signs of aging and also contribute to skin cancer. And then there is also some evidence that even visible light coming from screens and lights inside our house can damage the skin.

Sunscreen Myth #6:  Sprays don’t work as well as lotions

Doc’s Debunk:  Sprays do work as well as lotions, if you put them on as directed. Which is to say, spray them into your hand and then apply, rather than just spraying it onto your body and rubbing it in. I prefer, especially for kids, to use lotion or cream-based sunscreens as your base in the morning and then use spray sunscreen as a touch-up.

Same thinking applies for using mineral powders on your face. It’s hard to know that you’re getting on the right amount when it’s a mineral powder and I think people tend to not put on as much as if they were putting on a cream or a lotion. I suggest starting with cream or lotion in the morning and using mineral powder for on-the-go touch-ups.

Sunscreen Myth #7: Both my moisturizer and foundation have SPF in them, so I don’t need to add sunscreen, right?

Doc’s Debunk:  The way that we consider applying a moisturizer and a foundation is not to the same way we would apply a sunscreen. So, if you really are looking to have the best protection then you want to opt for a sunscreen first. The best order for your morning facial routine is: Cleansing product, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen and then makeup.

It’s also important to know that you can’t add up the SPF in your moisturizer and foundation to get a higher level of protection. It’s not like you’ve got a 15 in your moisturizer and a 15 in your foundation and all of a sudden you’re protected to a  level of 30. It just doesn’t work that way.  

Sunscreen Myth #8: A mineral sunscreen is healthier than a chemical sunscreen

Doc’s Debunk: All sunscreens that are approved in Canada are safe.  If you have a preference of mineral over chemical, that’s fine. Bottom line: The best sunscreen is the one you’re willing to put on.

Worried about post-workout redness?

Editor-approved sunscreens:
Here’s what we’re currently loving!

Best Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: With hydrating aloe vera and antioxidant boosting soybean, this formula is gentle enough for babies! Lotus Aroma Daily Sunscreen SPF 30. $29

Best Facial Powder Sunscreen: You get top-level protection, thanks to the SPF50, with a subtle hint of colour for a summery glow. Plus, the mineral formula contains anti-aging ingredients. Laboratoire Dr Renaud Broad Spectrum Loose Powder SPF 50, $58

Best Full-Body Sunscreen: This water-resistant formula is enriched with moisturizers and vitamin E to help fight premature skin again. Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $1

Best Tinted Sunscreen: A 3-in-1 lightweight mineral sunscreen, this formula offers a base level of sun protection in a moisturizing foundation suitable for all skin types and skin tones. Vegan and fragrance-free, it’s available in three tints. LASPA Naturals SPF20 Fluid Matte Foundation, $39

Best #EveryDamnDay Sunscreen: This lightweight physical sunscreen checks all the boxes: it’s free of dyes, parabens, sulfates, fragrances and animal cruelty. It also doesn’t have a white cast, and even goes two steps further—hydrating skin and removing redness. Alumier MD Clear Shield Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 42, $48

Nail Signs You Should Never Ignore

Did you know that signs of melanoma can show up around your nails? Since it’s considered the deadliest kind of skin cancer –usually found older people or those with darker skin tones – keeping an eye out for signs is a habit worth getting into.  “The good news is that when found early, melanoma — even on the nails — is highly treatable,” says Dr. Skylar Souyoul, a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. “The best way to find skin cancer on your nails early, when it’s most treatable, is to know what to look for and regularly check your nails.” Here are the common signs:

  1. A dark streak. This may look like a brown or black band in the nail — often on the thumb or big toe of your dominant hand or foot. However, this dark streak can show up on any nail.
  2. Dark skin next to your nail. When the skin around your nail becomes darker, it could be a sign of melanoma.
  3. Nail lifting from your fingers or toes. When this happens, your nail starts to separate from the nail bed. The white free edge at the top of your nail will start to look longer as the nail lifts.
  4. Nail splitting. The split, which usually goes down the middle of the nail, can happen on any digit.
  5. A bump or nodule under your nails. You might also see a band of color on your nail. It could be wide and irregular or dark and narrow.

Welcome to Pretty Healthy, FLEETSTREET’s in-depth series. Beauty starts with healthy skin and hair, and this column delivers the goods on making that a reality.