Anti-sunscreen TikTok movement is 'so dangerous', dermatologist says

Social media influencers' anti-sunscreen movement is 'dangerous', cautions board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll

A concerning trend is gaining momentum on social media: the anti-sunscreen movement.

Social media influencers on platforms like TikTok are promoting the avoidance of sunscreen, citing unfounded claims about sunscreen chemicals causing cancer or potentially causing vitamin D deficiencies.

Health authorities have stepped in to counter the spread of misinformation and warn of the risks associated with this dangerous trend.

"This anti-sunscreen movement is so dangerous because we know that 80–90 per cent of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet radiation," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll. "Sunscreen is one of our best ways to protect ourselves from that radiation."

Carroll adds that when it comes to the 'cancer-causing' claim, it's simply untrue.

"All the sunscreens we have available in Canada are Health Canada-approved," she says. "To my knowledge, there is no published data that sunscreen causes skin cancer. In fact, it's the exact opposite. One bad sunburn before the age of 20 doubles your risk of melanoma—and melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer that we diagnose."

Content continues below

WATCH: Detecting melanoma with the ABCDE method

SEE ALSO: Which sunscreen should you choose? It depends on the weather

"The anti-sunscreen movement online is not one you want to be influenced by," adds Carroll.

The National Library of Medicine says more than 80,000 Canadians are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, and wearing sunblock is an important means to prevent this cancer.

Various approaches to sun protection

Dr. Lisa Tabrizi, a naturopathic physician, also urges caution regarding this viral trend.

"As Canadians, our connection to nature runs deep, and so does our appreciation for the sun's warmth," Tabrizi explains. "However, with this appreciation comes the responsibility to safeguard ourselves from its potential harm."

Fortunately, there are various approaches to sun protection that cater to different preferences. Below, Tabrizi offers some options and the science behind them.

Sunscreen Selection: When selecting sunscreen, Canadians have the choice between physical and chemical formulations. Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a barrier on the skin to deflect and scatter UV rays. Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds like oxybenzone or avobenzone, which absorb UV radiation and transform it into heat, which is then released from the skin.

Content continues below

Understanding SPF: Regardless of the type chosen, it's crucial to prioritize broad-spectrum coverage against both UVB and UVA rays. Opt for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to ensure adequate protection against sunburn and long-term skin damage. Remember, no sunscreen offers complete protection, so reapplication is key, especially after swimming or sweating. Wondering how much you should use? Approximately 30ml (1 ounce) is adequate to cover the whole body.

Timing is Everything: The sun's intensity peaks between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., making it prudent to limit outdoor activities during these hours, or try to stay in the shade. Planning outdoor adventures earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon can reduce exposure to harmful UV radiation and minimize the risk of sunburn and skin damage.

Cover Up: Enhance your sun protection arsenal with accessories like hats and sunglasses. Wide-brimmed hats offer additional coverage for your face, ears, and neck, while sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection shield your eyes from harmful radiation. There are also clothing options specifically designed to offer sun protection by blocking or absorbing UV radiation. These garments often come with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating, which indicates how much UV radiation can penetrate the fabric. For example, clothing with a UPF rating of 50 allows only 1/50th of the sun's UV radiation to pass through. Synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon, as well as natural fibres like cotton and linen, can provide excellent sun protection when woven tightly.

Embrace the Shade: When spending time outdoors, seek refuge in shaded areas whenever possible. Trees, umbrellas, or canopies provide natural protection from direct sunlight, reducing overall sun exposure and mitigating the risk of sunburn and heat-related illnesses.

"In our vast Canadian landscape, enjoying the outdoors is a cherished pastime," shares Tabrizi. "By adopting a balanced approach to sun protection, we can revel in nature's beauty while safeguarding our skin and health. Whether you opt for a physical or chemical sunscreen, prioritize broad-spectrum coverage, and complement it with protective clothing and seeking shade when needed. Let's embrace the sun responsibly, knowing that we've taken proactive steps to protect ourselves while enjoying all that Canada has to offer."

WATCH: What you should look for in a sunscreen