Sunday, 4 March 2007 | Tags: , , , ,

Sun-worshipper or indoor shopper, sunscreen is an important weapon against those harmful ultraviolet rays, no matter how long you're outdoors. We find out more about buying this important protective product.

The Basics

  • Sunscreens come in many forms from gels to lotions, sticks and sprays.

  • Spending more for a sunscreen doesn’t necessarily buy you better protection. Experts say that there is no difference between a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen that costs $5.00 and one that costs twice as much.

  • Look for a SPF of 15 or higher, this will give a minimum of 93% UVB protection when used properly.

  • Buy broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

    • UVB rays are typically blocked by the active ingredient Cinnamate or Methoxycinnamate

    • UVA rays are blocked by Parsol 1789 (also know as Avobensone), Mexoryl SX or Mexoryl XL.

  • Choose a sunscreen that is water-resistant or waterproof to protect in and out of water.

  • Water-resistant sunscreens protect for up to 40 minutes in the water. Waterproof sunscreens are good for about 80 minutes. Always reapply when you get out of the water, and frequently throughout the day.

  • Consider a fragrance-free sunscreen since many people are allergic can be allergic to heavily-scented products.

  • Check the expiry date since sunscreen contains chemicals that breakdown over time. If it’s expired, it won’t provide the protection you need.

  • Look for the American Academy of Dermatology logo or Canadian Dermatologist Association logo on the bottle. This means the product meets industry standards.

  • Also check for a stamp certifying that the sunscreen has been approved by an independent dermatology or skin cancer association.

Other Considerations

  • Apply more sunscreen than you think you need – it takes a shot-glass sized amount to cover an average-sized body.

  • Increasingly popular are lip balms, moisturizing creams, shampoos and make-up that contain some level of sun protection. Lips are very important to protect!

  • Tinted sunscreens, mostly geared toward kids (who wouldn’t want green-tinted skin?) are good for seeing where the sunscreen has been applied. The tint fades as the product completely soaks in.

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside.

  • Reapply every 2 hours (even water-resistant formulas), or every 30 minutes if you’ve been sweating or swimming.


We spent a week in Maui, both in and out of the water, using four different SPF 30 sunscreens (one on each limb) to compare protection:

  • Generic store brand: $8 per 240 ml
. .
  • Coppertone: $13 per 220 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.comicon
  • Hawaiian Tropic: $16 per 118 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Vichy: $60 150 ml
. . Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)


Screen Test

  • Anna liked the feel and the smell of Vichy but she admitted she wouldn’t spend that kind of money on sunscreen when you can get the same protection for less than half the price.

  • The generic brand went on comparably and had a muted scent.

  • The Hawaiian Tropic, even with its nostalgically wonderful scent, was thick and harder to apply.

  • Kristina found the Coppertone to be a good contender too.


It came down to price for this one since all of the sunscreens had the same protection effect. We chose the generic store brand as the most economical choice.


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