Sunscreen Information


Use of high-SPF sunscreen (sunscreens labelled with SPF values higher than 50), provides greater protection against sunburn and UV induced skin cell damage [i] over sunscreens with low SPF values. Use of sunscreen over the long term is estimated to reduce incidence of skin cancer by 50% to 75%. [ii] [iii] There is well documented research that the general public frequently fails to apply sunscreen effectively or does not use sufficient quantity of sunscreen to reach the level of SPF of the product.

The Sun Safety Council and the Melanoma Network of Canada recommends the use of high SPF sunscreens whenever possible over lower level SPF sunscreens. Read the full report 

What Kind of Sunscreen Should I Look For?

Choosing a sunscreen can be confusing! Here are some tips for picking a sunscreen that will help protect you from ultra-violet radiation:

  • Sunscreens reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) absorbed by the skin, preventing sunburn and other UVR-induced changes in the skin.
  • Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth – ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer and melanoma. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles, age spots and worse, potentially skin cancer including melanoma. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn.
  • Use sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
  • SPF 30 sunscreens block approximately 97% of the sun’s rays. Higher number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s rays but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s rays.
  • High-number SPF sunscreens last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs
  • Sunscreens should be broad spectrum – this means that they will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Look for sunscreens that are water resistant. Sunscreen should be re-applied approximately every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy or cold days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Be sure to read the expiration date on the bottle. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time.

Sun Screen Safety

  • Health Canada recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
  • In Canada, all sunscreens have passed a review by Health Canada and are given a drug identification number (DIN).  Click here to view Sunscreen Products Tested by Health Canada
  • Reviews of studies of a number of common sunscreen ingredients have not shown that those ingredients, including oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), pose health risks.

When to Wear Sunscreen

  • Sunscreens should be used on exposed skin not covered by protective clothing, which offers more effective skin protection.
  • Apply sunscreen everyday when outdoors. The sun emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays all year round.
  • Use a generous amount of sunscreen. Reapply sunscreen based on activity level, immediately after swimming, toweling off or sweating heavily.
  • Applying sunscreen about 15 minutes before going outside helps your skin to absorb it before exposure, but once outside, it’s not too late to apply.
  • Health Canada recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
  • For a list of recommended sunscreens from the Canadian Dermatology Association please click here

Are you at risk for skin cancer?

My Cancer IQ risk assessment

Sun Safety Myths

Tackling the sunscreen-related concerns we’ve seen pop up on health blogs recently.

Tanning Beds are Dangerous

In 2009, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans.


i Joshua D. Williams, P.Maitra, E. Atillasoy, M. Wu, A. Farberg, D.Rigel, SPF 100+ sunscreen is more protective against sunburn than SPF 50+ in actual use: Results of a randomized, double-blind, split-face, natural sunlight exposure clinical trial: 2018 [Available online at: cited October 21, 2018]

iiGreen AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up: Journal of Clinical Oncology 2011 [Available online at:, cited October 18, 2018]

iii Caroline G. Watts, M. Drummond, C. Goumas, Sunscreen Use and Melanoma Risk Among Young Australian Adults, JAMA Dermatology 2018 [Available online at:, cited October 2018]