Dr. Katie Beleznay
Dr. Katie Beleznay, a board-certified dermatologist, is a leading practitioner of medical and cosmetic dermatology. Mediaplanet spoke with Dr. Beleznay to learn about the best practices for skin care during the warm, summer months.
How should Canadians practice sun safety during the summer months?
Protecting the skin from damaging UV rays is something to keep in mind year-round. But, of course, it becomes more of a focus in the summer as people tend to spend more time outside in the sun. Sunscreen is an important part of an overall sun protection strategy but utilizing multiple forms of sun protection is generally the best approach. This includes trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible — especially midday — seeking shade, and keeping the skin covered. If you’re spending a day at the beach, consider the use of UV protective clothing and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
How can you determine which sunscreen is best for you? What are the differences to consider between mineral and chemical sunscreen?
I often say that the best sunscreen is the one you like and the one you will use. There are many options out there, and even though it may take a little trial and error, I believe everyone can find something that works for them. The key ingredients to look out for in sunscreen are SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum protection (UVA + UVB), and if swimming or sweating, the ones labelled as water-resistant. There are a variety of ingredients used in sunscreens that have been shown to effectively block UV rays. Some of these filters are mineral or physical blockers, including things like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Others are considered organic or chemical filters. People with sensitive skin, rosacea, or melasma may benefit more from a mineral-based sunscreen, but in general, it’s a matter of personal preference. Both chemical and mineral sunscreens are generally considered safe, and many popular sunscreens these days utilize both chemical and mineral filters, enabling formulations that provide excellent UV protection while reducing the chalky, white cast that has historically been associated with mineral-only sunscreens.
How often do you recommend reapplying sunscreen?
The recommendation for sunscreen reapplication is every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating — even if you’re wearing water-resistant sunscreen. But before you get to the reapplication part, it’s important to remember to apply enough sunscreen, to begin with. It’s recommended to use about one ounce — a shot glass — for full-body application, and for your face and neck areas, the rule of thumb is to use about half a teaspoon.
When do you recommend getting screened for skin cancer? Why is it important?
Skin cancer is common, but if detected early, it can often be treated by surgical excision (removal), which is why it’s so important to check your skin for any irregular spots or moles. If you have a personal or family history of melanoma or other risk factors, an annual skin checkup is recommended. But in general, I encourage regular skin self-exams or having a partner or friend do it, to identify anything unusual. If you know your own skin and moles, you can keep an eye out for anything new, irregular, or changing, which would be something to speak to your doctor about.
What advice do you offer to someone who wants to soak up the sun during the short summers in Canada?
It’s possible to get out and enjoy the summer weather while being smart about sun protection, and I encourage people to do just that. I would recommend everyone use sunscreen and consider other sun protection measures as well. I realize many people desire to get that golden tan but it’s important to remember that when your skin tans, it’s actually a sign of damage to the DNA in your skin cells. Couple this with the fact that the majority of skin aging is due to the sun, and the majority of skin cancer is due to the sun, and I think there are a lot of reasons to not want to soak up as much of it as you can.