June 24, 2014

Stay safe in the Sun: Q & A with dermatologist Dr. Paul Cohen

Summer is officially here which also means bring on the sunscreen. Those teen days of applying 4 spf in hopes of becoming a sun goddess are gone. Educate yourself on the importance of wearing sunscreen. And fake the bronze goddess look because skin cancer isn't pretty!
  • Did you know that 1 in 3 Canadians does not see tanning as a risky behaviour.
  • Over 60% of Canadians think they look healthier with a tan
  • 1 in 4 Canadians does not use sunscreen
  • over 50% of Canadians think it is fine to tan as long as they don't burn
(IPSOS-REID survey conducted in Canada on behalf of Neutrogena and Aveeno of Johnson & Johnson Inc. between April 18-23, 2013.)

I recently had the opportunity to ask dermatologist Dr. Paul Cohen a few questions. What are we still doing wrong when applying sunscreen. Also, as a mother to a nine month old my concerns in keeping my son safe in the sun are also important. Hopefully you'll find my interview helpful.
1. With all the info consumers have on skin cancer. What are consumers still doing wrong with regards to sunscreen?
The biggest thing that I would say consumers are still doing wrong with regards to sunscreen is that they are not applying it thick enough or often enough.  You really need one ounce of sunscreen, a full shot glass worth to cover a normal body.  And I’ve found that most people are not diligent about re-applying after sweating or swimming; it puts them at a higher risk.
 2. How often should one go to the dermatologist? I.e check for moles, etc...
 I would say it really depends – if you have a family history of skin cancer, or any of the other risk factors like blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, if you have certain types and a large number of moles — you should visit the dermatologist for a skin check once a year.
 For most people without that history or risk factor, I would say your family doctor can likely monitor your skin and moles.
 3. Now that I have a baby. How much sunscreen should I be applying on him? And is there a difference between sunscreens marketed for adults vs babies?
 In my opinion, sunscreen should not be used on children that are less than six months.  In that case, I recommend using sun protective clothing and really keeping them out of the sun and in the shade.  In terms of how much, make sure you are applying a thick coating of sunscreen to ensure proper protection. I think especially when they’re young, it’s very important to make sure you are protecting them and using multiple methods like also using sun protective clothing, and trying to stay in the shade. We now know that sunburns at a young age increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

I believe sunscreens marketed for children are similar to adult formulas, but the formulas are made more appealing for children.  I have also found that sunscreens for children, particularly babies tend to be more of a physical block versus a chemical block. Both chemical and physical filters or blockers are equally effective in blocking UV rays, they just work differently. Physical blockers reflect UV off of the skin. A chemical sunscreen works to convert UV radiation into harmless heat. Typically, physical sunscreens are better tolerated on sensitive skin.
 Personally, I love to use NEUTROGENA® WET SKIN® Sunscreen Spray for when I take my kids to the beach. I can spray it on them when their skin is still wet, so it makes reapplying less of a hassle and maximizes the kids’ time to have fun and still be fully protected.
 4. My baby also has eczema & I worry about chemical sunscreens. Should I?
 Chemical sunscreens can be more irritating on sensitive skin, like those affected with eczema.  I would recommend sticking to more physical blocks that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, as they tend to be better tolerated on sensitive skin.
Thank you to Dr. Cohen for taking the time to answer the above.
Will you be applying sunscreen correctly this Summer?

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