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
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.