How to know which sunscreen to use this summer

Get the lowdown on our favourite new products for a safe-sun summer here.
By Carli Whitwell
Woman Lying on the beach in the sand Photo, Kenneth Willardt/Trunk Archive.

“Put on your sunscreen” are words that have been drummed into our heads since childhood. Today, that advice is as important as ever, but thankfully we’ve long since said goodbye to the greasy, chalky formulas of our youth. (Thank you, science!)

The new crop of sunscreens are lightweight, non-sticky and, most importantly, broad spectrum. This means they protect against UVB rays (the ones that burn) and UVA rays (the ones that cause aging and, worse, skin cancer). And it’s become easier than ever to spot these well-rounded sun stoppers thanks to new guidelines from Health Canada. Previously, companies could throw in a little UVA protection and dub their product “broad spectrum.” Now in order to label it as such they must adhere to specific UVA/UVB ingredient ratios to protect up to a specific UV wavelength.

As for picking which UV-radiation-fighting ingredients to save your skin, that’s a matter of personal preference. Some people would rather use physical filters, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which work like a disco ball and reflect the sun’s rays, says Toronto-based dermatologist Dr. Sonya Cook, medical director of Compass Dermatology. Chemical filters, such as Mexoryl SX or avobenzone, absorb UV rays and convert them to heat. Sunscreen formulas can contain either one or a combo of both, but each filter is equally effective, says Dr. Anatoli Freiman, chair of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Sun Protection Program. That’s provided you wear a high-enough SPF — dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30. Make sure you put on enough (a golf-ball-sized amount to cover the body) and reapply every two hours or after swimming.

Still confused? Follow the jump to see our 10 favourite sunscreens for summer 2014.


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