Dur­ing the sum­mer months, as we start to ex­pose more of our skin, we also re­veal other as­pects of our­selves — namely, our philoso­phies about sun­burns and sun­screen. Par­ent­ing blog­ger An­drea Tomkins talks to Dr. Jim Walker, der­ma­tol­o­gist and as­so­ciate prof

Ottawa Magazine - - This City -

Is it true that a tan is fine as long as you don’t burn?

No. A burn is more dam­ag­ing than a tan with­out burn, but the slow tan still in­creases longterm sun dam­age and in­creases the risk of fu­ture skin can­cers.

Is SPF 60 overkill?

Un­for­tu­nately, no one can ap­ply enough sun­screen to achieve the SPF dis­played on the prod­uct. In ac­tu­al­ity, you are prob­a­bly get­ting an ef­fec­tive SPF of 20 to 30 from a prod­uct claim­ing 60. So for a fair-skinned per­son, the high SPF is bet­ter.

Do you have any help­ful tips for par­ents with chil­dren who spend a lot of time out­doors?

Teach them the meth­ods of sun pro­tec­tion and the dan­ger of so­lar ex­cess, par­tic­u­larly sun­burns. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for the more fairskinned chil­dren.

Can you com­ment on the chem­i­cal con­tent of some sun­screens? Can these in­gre­di­ents be harm­ful?

This is a bit like the vac­ci­na­tion tur­moil in the media. The dan­ger of sun­burn — es­pe­cially re­peated sun­burns — far out­weighs the min­i­mal po­ten­tial dan­ger of ap­ply­ing the chem­i­cals and the tiny min­eral par­ti­cles in sun­screens to our skin.

In terms of treat­ment, will an aloe plant re­ally help heal a sun­burn?

Prob­a­bly not. Once the burn has oc­curred, the cat is out of the bag. The DNA has been dam­aged, and I am not aware of any cream that will re­verse this dam­age. Pain re­lief and pro­tec­tion from fur­ther burn should be the main goal of treat­ing a sun­burn.

What kind of sun-care reg­i­men do you rec­om­mend for the av­er­age of­fice worker?

I’ve seen rec­om­men­da­tions that ev­ery­one should wear sun­screen ev­ery day, no mat­ter whether they’re go­ing to the beach or to the gro­cery store. In Ot­tawa, it may be ex­ces­sive in au­tumn and win­ter to ap­ply sun­screen for a short out­door ex­po­sure, but sun dam­age is a con­tin­u­ous process. There are four ma­jor fac­tors that cause skin ag­ing: sun dam­age, to­bacco ex­po­sure, time, and ge­net­ics. We can­not stop the clock, nor can we choose our par­ents, but we can con­trol sun and to­bacco ex­po­sure.

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