Life In The Sun

By Kristina Hewlett and Dr. Steven Gordon

Whether you are enjoying the summer sun at home or investing in year-round sunshine in a tropical paradise, here are a few truths about sun protection and a few tips to keep your skin healthy:

“I use sunscreen every morning, I’m protected” Even broad-spectrum sunscreens that claim to be long lasting provide protection for only two to three hours. Sun protection needs to be reapplied regularly throughout the day, and more so when sweating or playing in the water.

“It’s cloudy, I don’t need sunscreen” Up to 80% of UV rays can travel through cloud, fog and haze. Sunburn, free radical production and photo aging all still occur on overcast days.

“I tan easily, so my skin is safe in the sun” A tan does little to protect against sunburn or skin cancer — tans and sunburn are sun damage. A deep dark tan is only equivalent to an SPF 4 sunscreen, which does nothing to protect you from long-term damage.

“Sun exposure is needed to absorb healthy Vitamin D” The skin can only make a limited amount of Vitamin D and after 10 minutes it is saturated. “For a healthy immune system I recommend all my patients take 2000 IU of liposomal Vitamin D with K2 year-round and limit their sun exposure to a few minutes daily.” says Dr. Katie Branter, ND of Clear Skin Victoria Laser & Wellness Group.

“Skin cancer is not a major risk.” One in eight people in Canada will get skin cancer in their lifetime. It is one of the most common forms of cancer. When skin cancer is detected early, it is not necessarily life threatening, but surgery can leave disfiguring scars. If left untreated squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma can spread and become deadly.

“How can I enjoy the sun and have healthy skin?” The first is to stay covered. Clothes provide chemical-free and inexpensive sun protection. Most important is a wide-brimmed hat that keeps the sun off your face and ears. It is important to remember that the sun is the strongest and most harmful between 10 am and 4 pm, so covering up and seeking shade when possible is the best protection.

Secondly, invest in quality sunscreen or sunblock with “broad” or “full spectrum SPF of 30-45 (higher than SPF 45 just means more chemicals and a false sense of protection) and use them every day. These will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. (UVA breaks down the collagen and skin structure year-round, even through windows even during the winter months and UVB causes sunburn predominantly during peak summer hours).

“All suncreens are the same and irritate my skin”
Mineral-based sunblocks containing zinc or titanium oxide sit on the surface of the skin, physically blocking the sun’s rays immediately after application. Mineral SPF is often a much more natural or pure product and is ideal for sensitive skin because it causes fewer reactions or breakouts.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays. Some chemical filters can scatter sunrays, but still mostly just absorb and alter the rays to prevent sunburn. Chemical filters tend to be more irritating to skin and can cause allergic reactions. They also require application 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.

Treating sunburn & long-term damage
If you do get sunburned topical treatments such as fresh aloe vera gel, a chilled green tea compress or undiluted apple cider vinegar can be very soothing.

Skin damage caused by prolonged exposure and burns is a different matter. Sun exposure can break down collagen, which essentially forms the skin’s scaffolding, and can develop brown spots or dilated vessels that are visible on the surface of the skin. Medical lasers are capable of treating most cosmetic concerns caused by sun damage, but seeking medical advice is necessary to choose the best option and to make sure there is early detection of any skin cancer.

Top 10 products and medical laser treatments recommended for the prevention and treatment of sun damage:

Coola Mineral SPF 30-45
Colorescience SPF 30 Sunforgettables Mineral Powder
Dermaquest Tinted ZinClear SPF 30
Keys Island Rx SPF 30

(free radical scavengers)
Dermaceutic Serum C25 Vitamin C , A, E, B, B5 & Polyphenols
Dermaquest C-Lipoic Antioxidant Serum

Cutera LimeLight – an IPL device for the treatment of vascular and pigmented lesions.

Cutera Laser Genesis- a laser device that protects the epidermis, targets microvasculature and stimulates collagen production.

Cutera Pearl Fusion- an ablative laser therapy combination that results in epidermal renewal and dramatic reduction in wrinkles as well as treating uneven skin texture, pigmentation and sun damage.

Topical Metvix® in combination with Aktilite® -an LED red light technology device for the treatment of actinic keratosis and superficial basal cell carcinoma.

For more information on products or treatments contact us at 250.590.4295 or

One comment

  1. The latest report from the United Nations on global warming is that with the increased atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) less sunlight is reaching the surface of our planet, and thus there has actually been global cooling since 1997. Yes, some 36 of 38 climate predictions by major scientists , have been groosly inaccurate . Since most persons are short on their level of Vitamin D3 due to wearing clothing or having dark skin, a sun block will further reduce your vitamin D3 level. It is safer for many to build up a tan before spending much time outdoors. After a time in the sun, it is best to apply Aloa vera gell to the exposed skin it night of after coming in from the outdoors on sunny days. Many reports are that the sunscreen lotions are dangerous for your skin. The sunscreens are a problem for the pool and hot tub filters.

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