Summer Daze: The Down Low On Sunscreen

Summer Daze: The Down Low On Sunscreen

Like many people, the sun and I have a complicated relationship. I really love the sun, I like Vitamin D, and living in Vancouver (especially this summer) means there are plenty of days where the sun is hidden behind an almost impenetrable force field of clouds and rain. The thing is, I’m crazy pale…

This is probably what I look like to every one else at the beach…


Regardless of your skin pigmentation (or lack thereof), we all know sunscreen is important. I wanted to know what sunscreen is really all about lucky for us, our friends at did the research that I am way too lazy to do myself (I’m a blogger, not a scientist). Here’s a few sunscreen myths, busted.


Myth: SPF 50 or higher is best

SPF refers to the ability of a sunscreen to block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which cause sunburns, but not UVA rays, which are more closely linked to deeper skin damage. Both UVA and UVB contribute to the risk of skin cancer.

Dr. Papantoniou explains that, “The SPF rating is a measure of the time it would take you to sunburn if you were not wearing sunscreen as opposed to the time it would take with sunscreen. “SPF is not a consumer-friendly number,” says Dr. Papantoniou. “It is logical for someone to think that an SPF of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of 15 and so on. But that is not how it works.” According to Dr. Papantoniou, “An SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays; an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays; and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays. “After that, it just gets superfluous,” she says. Sunscreens with higher SPF ratings block slightly more UVB rays, but none offers 100% protection. Dr. Papantoniou recommends SPF 30 – 50 products to her patients, depending on their skin type and medical history.

Myth: You only need a quarter-sized squirt of sunscreen to protect yourself

You’ve probably heard people say to use an amount the size of a quarter. Wrong! You’re supposed to use a shot glass full of sunscreen on all exposed areas to get the full benefit. “And here’s something else you probably don’t know,” says Dr. Papantoniou.  “SPF only refers to UVB rays. There is no ratings scale for UVA protection. So look for the words “Broad Spectrum” on the label and specific ingredients. The most important ingredients to for UVA protection are avobenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.”

Myth: Using multiple products with SPF gives you greater protection.

“SPF isn’t an equation,” says Dr. Papantoniou. “You can’t use an SPF 15 primer and an SPF 20 foundation and get SPF 30 coverage. Your sun protection is only as strong as your highest SPF, which in this case would be 20.” Of course, if you’re dabbing foundation or moisturizer on only small areas of your face, it’s wise to double up on products that contain SPF to ensure total coverage.


Here’s a reminder of how to properly protect yourself:

  1. Always wear a hat and sun protective clothing if you’re going to be out for long periods of time.
  2. Avoid the mid-day sun.
  3. Don’t be tempted to use that tube of sunblock you didn’t quite finish last year.  New summer, new sunblock.
  4. Slather on generous quantities of sunblock at least 30 minutes before you head outdoors: To achieve the SPF level on the label, you need a teaspoon on your face, and a shot glass-worth for your body. Don’t forget your ears, your lips, your hairline, and your scalp or part lines.
  5. Reapply every couple of hours, especially if you’ve been swimming or exercising.


So when summer finally decides to show up in Vancouver this year, keep these tips in mind to avoid going into the Fall looking like a lobster



Dr. Kally Papantoniou is a Cosmetic Dermatologist, Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology. She specializes in Injectables, Lasers, Body Contouring, Surgical and Medical Dermatology. Dr. Papantoniou is also a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Health Center in New York City. She applies expert techniques and the newest technologies to treat her patients. Dr. Papantoniou focuses on providing her patients with the highest level of care, with special interests in natural and healthy alternatives to treatments and disease prevention. Connect with Dr. Papantoniou  via twitter @DrPderm or her website

Christa Lalonde
Blogger and Coordinator for Faye Smith Hair and Makeup


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