Sunscreens & Sunburn : Try our Tips for this Summer

Sunscreens & Sunburn : Try our Tips for this Summer


Sunscreens & Sunburn : Try our Tips for this Summer

The searing truth about sun damage–and how you might be applying your sunscreen all wrong.

Sunspots, fine lines and dull skin tone are all classic signs that your com­plexion has probably caught a few too many rays. But most of us still don’t seem to be able to spot the sunspots. 

Sun damage does not look the same on every­one, says Dr. Renée A. Beach, a dermatologist and founder of DermAtelier on Avenue in Toronto, but there are some telltale signs.

“If we’re talking about brown or black skin, you might see darker or lighter patches and post-acne changes that linger longer because the process of inflammation caused by the sun and acne activates melanocytes to produce more melanin, resulting in deeper brown tones,” says Dr. Beach.

Rosacea-prone people of all skin tones will notice even more redness in response to sun exposure. Aside from the immediate redness of a burn, folks with fairer skin may see more freckles and tan lines, too. 

Unfortunately, a lot of us still view a summer glow as “healthy looking,” and worse, helpful. A recent U.S. survey found that 47 percent of adults were either unsure, or incorrectly believed, that a “base tan” was not harmful and would even prevent sunburns. “I want to be really clear about this,” says Dr. Beach. “A base tan is synonymous with base damage.” 

Each bit of sun damage results in skin cells that reproduce with errors, which accumulate over time to form mutations that can result in cancer. A great skin-care regimen, with the right serums and moisturizers (and/or in-office treatments with a dermatologist), can minimize some of the visible signs of sun damage. “But you can’t reverse or reduce DNA damage caused by the sun,” says Dr. Beach. 

“We wait so long in Canada for summer, so I can’t blame people who want to bask in the sun when it’s finally here, but let’s go about it in the right way,” she says. That means regular and suf­ficient applications of broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum rating of SPF 30, seeking shade, avoiding overexposure during peak hours and covering up with UPF-rated clothing to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. 

How you’re really supposed to treat a sunburn 

For a classic red-as-a-lobster first-degree burn, a cold shower, ice pack wrapped in a dishcloth and application of a cooling lotion or aloe gel can all be helpful, says Dr. Beach. “They won’t reduce the damage but can relieve the symptoms.” When it comes to more intense, blistering burns, you’ll need to take extra care, since the skin barrier has been breached. 

There are differing opinions among dermato­logists as to whether it helps to remove blistered skin, says Dr. Beach. “The most important thing either way is to keep the skin clean,” she says. Be sure to carefully wash the area daily with a gentle cleanser, skip your spin classes and swims at the community pool since you want to avoid any chance of infection, and keep the burn covered from further sun exposure until it heals.


So you messed up your SPF application

If you’ve spent an afternoon on the cottage dock or at the community pool and are now as crimson as a tomato despite using sunscreen, you’re not alone. Here are the top five ways that many of us tend to get it wrong when it comes to sunscreen application.

You forgot some of the often-missed areas like your ears or feet

“Easily exposed sites are most likely to get sunburned,” says Dr. Monica Li, a derma­tologist and clinical instructor in the department of dermatology and skin science at The University of British Columbia.

Think top of the head, decolletage, back of the neck and shoulders. These areas receive so much exposure that it’s tough to keep them protected (and unless you’re wearing a hat, your scalp is very vulnerable since we don’t often apply sunscreen past the hairline). Lips, ears, and feet are also common spots for sunburns because they are simply forgotten during the application process. 

You used a spray without rubbing it in

Many people love to use a sunscreen spray because it provides a light, nonsticky texture, but—and this is a big but—they are not one-and-done products. Like a gel or lotion, a spray still needs to be rubbed into the skin. Without this second step in the application process, areas of the body can easily be overlooked, leaving patches of skin exposed and vulnerable to burning.

You didn’t apply enough

Sunscreen is too often underapplied, which means you’re not even getting the full SPF protection listed on the tube, stick or spray bottle. Keep in mind that you’ll need a nickel-size dollop for your face and a shot glass size amount (roughly two tablespoons) for your body. Plus, it needs to be reapplied every two hours, or every 40 to 80 minutes (depending on the product you’re using) after swimming or sweating. 

You didn’t apply a water-resistant product 

A day at the beach, afternoon poolside or a long run in the heat requires the right type of product. Be sure to switch to a sunscreen that is described as water- and/or sweat-resistant on the packaging. This means it has been designed to stay on the skin and withstand a dip in the water, or dousing of sweat, while still shielding you from UV rays. These products are only resistant to water for a certain amount of time, so read the label to make sure you know when to reapply.

You overestimated the power of your sunscreen

People often have a false sense of security once they’ve applied a good layer of sunscreen, but even the best application isn’t the only defence needed against UV light, says Dr. Li. The most effective way to protect your skin is to think of your sunscreen as just one piece of the sun-care puzzle. You’ll also need to seek shade, cover up and avoid exposure during the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

“After all of the discomfort, wound care and regret, make sure to do whatever is possible to avoid a future sunburn,” says Dr. Li. 


Burn Out

In the unfortunate event that you get a sunburn, the right products can provide some relief and help your skin to heal. 


Treat rosy thighs or crimson shoulders to this cooling gel that’s loaded with vitamin E and aloe to soothe damaged skin and help restore moisture.



SUN BUM Cool Down Soothing and Cooling Aloe Gel, $12, 



If you forgot to protect your pout and it’s feeling dry and chapped, this cooling ointment will provide instant relief.


EOS The Fixer Medicated Lip Ointment, $7, 


Super sunscreens to try this summer

Have some fun in the sun—without burning your skin—with these effective, easy-to-wear sprays, lotions and sticks.

Best spray

This eco-conscious spray is water- and sweat-resistant for up to 40 minutes and goes on with a light-feeling, nongreasy finish. 


LIVE CLEAN Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 30, $23, 


Best for combination skin 

A lightweight sunscreen that’s nonirritating, even on breakout-prone skin. Layer this sheer zinc mineral sunblock over your serum and moisturizer, or use it in place of a day cream. 



BIOSSANCE Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, $40,


Best makeup multitasker

With sheer coverage, skin-care benefits (thanks to a blend of oils and vitamin C), sun protection and a dewy finish, it’s the ultimate all-in-one product. Plus, it comes in eight shades to suit every skin tone.



BEAUTYCOUNTER Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer, $62,


Best for sensitive skin 

This hypoallergenic mineral sunscreen stick contains oat extract, a gentle emollient that soothes dry skin.



ATTITUDE Oatmeal Sensitive Natural Care Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 30, $20, 


Best value 

This powerful sunscreen is gentle enough to use on both your face and body every day; plus, it doubles as a moisturizer to keep your complexion hydrated and protected from head to toe.



AVEENO Protect + Hydrate Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30, $13, 


Best for the family 

Slather up bodies big and small with this nonallergenic, tear-free lotion that provides broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection. 



BABYGANICS SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, $15,

Best for mature skin 

A blend of mineral sunscreen and moisturizing ingredients helps correct and protect against future signs of sun damage. And the ultralight texture sits perfectly under makeup. 


IDC DERMO Solis+ SPF 30 Mineral Anti-Aging Sunscreen, $40, 


Share X

Sunscreens & Sunburn : Try our Tips for this Summer