Wrinkle-proof your skin

Five skin care myths, exposed!

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Ha! Got your attention. Had this column been titled sun safety, you might not have looked. But seriously, gals, unprotected sun exposure not only accelerates premature aging, it can suppress your immune system. Plus, skin cancer cases have increased 30 per cent in just 10 years, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA). “People are spending more and more time in the sun and having a tan is stylish,” says Dr. Cheryl Rosen, head of the division of dermatology at Toronto Western Hospital. But today, the weight of evidence proves that there’s no such thing as “a healthy tan.”

I consulted Dr. Rosen and the CDA to blow away a few other sun worshipping myths, too. The upshot? Skip sunbathing or tanning beds and get that J. Lo glow from a self-tanner.

MYTH ONE: A dollop of sunscreen first thing in the morning will cover you for the rest of the day.
REALITY: Canadians aren’t wearing enough sunscreen to protect themselves from sun damage. The CDA recommends using about a shot glass (roughly an ounce) of sunscreen for full-body protection. To ensure you’re covered, consider using a higher sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen and lip balm with CDA logos, indicating that they block both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. It’s a good idea to reapply after swimming, sweating or if you go out for long periods. “One expert says the most important time to reapply is 20 minutes after the first application, because people do such a lousy job the first time,” reports Rosen. Don’t miss your ears, face, neck and forearms, where cancerous spots are most likely to appear.

MYTH TWO: An SPF15 sunscreen is as good as a higher SPF product.
REALITY: There’s little difference between SPF15 and SPF30 sunscreens in terms of burn protection, acknowledges Dr. Rosen, but the higher SPF lotion will protect you more effectively from immune suppression and skin damage at the cellular level.

MYTH THREE: It’s okay to get unprotected sun exposure, because vitamin D is good for you.
REALITY: There’s no need to risk premature wrinkling and skin cancer to get vitamin D from sun exposure when you can get this nutrient from supplements or fortified foods such as milk and cereal. Australian research found that sunscreen users aren’t vitamin-D deficient, either, adds Dr. Rosen.

MYTH FOUR: Tanning beds can help you avoid sunburns and get vitamin D, too.
REALITY: Despite ads to the contrary, tanning beds cause skin damage (signaled by a tan) and increase skin cancer risk. In fact, tanning beds sometimes emit stronger ultraviolet rays, but fewer vitamin-D producing UVB rays, than natural sunlight.

MYTH FIVE: Sunscreens can cause skin cancer by encouraging people to stay in the sun longer.
REALITY: University of Iowa researchers recently reviewed 18 studies and concluded that sunscreen use is not linked to an increased risk for melanoma, an often-fatal form of skin cancer. That said, sunscreen won’t completely protect you, so the CDA suggests staying inside or in the shade between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and covering up with long clothing and a wide-brimmed hat whenever possible. For more information, including pictures showing what suspect skin changes look like, visit
www.dermatology.ca.