In terms of effectiveness, is there a difference between mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen?

Mineral (also called physical) sunscreens feature sunscreen filters of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, while chemical sunscreens feature sunscreen filters made of organic molecules like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene and others. In terms of effectiveness, both chemical and mineral sunscreens can work equally effectively to block ultraviolet rays. The way to measure effectiveness is the SPF factor. An SPF 30 mineral sunscreen will give you the same protection as an SPF 30 chemical sunscreen. Traditionally, the thinking has been that mineral sunscreens reflect UV light, while chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays and converting them to (a very small amount of) heat.

If you do end up getting sunburned, what’s the best way to soothe it in the short term? Is there any way to prevent long-term damage once you’ve already been burned?

If you’ve already been burned, unfortunately the damage to the skin has already been done. From there, the best thing to do is focus on soothing and calming burned skin and helping it heal faster. First, get out of the sun and seek shade. A cold shower or cold compresses can soothe burned skin. Avoid scrubbing or using anything mechanically abrasive over the burned area. If the skin is painful, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce discomfort. Drink lots of water – you lose moisture faster when the skin is damaged by a burn – and don’t pop or remove blisters, as that skin will act as a biological “dressing” or bandage as the skin below heals.

What products or dermatological procedures (i.e. lasers) do you recommend to help reduce hyperpigmentation due to sun damage?

Sun exposure causes the skin to develop dark spots, also known as hyperpigmentation, over time. The best way to prevent (and also treat) hyperpigmentation is with diligent sun protection: regular use and re-application of SPF, use of sun protective clothing, and sun avoidance. Additionally, there are topical skincare ingredients that can help even skin tone and brighten. Our favourites are niacinamide, vitamin C, retinol, tranexamic acid, arbutin, soy, licorice root, and kojic acid. For patients who are very prone to developing hyperpigmentation from sun exposure, dermatologists recommend an oral supplement called polypodium leucotomos – a natural, plant-derived extract that comes from a fern, which uses the compound to protect its delicate leaves from the sun. Research shows that polypodium leucotomos can help boost the skin’s ability to protect itself from the sun’s rays. While it isn’t a replacement for SPF and safe sun practices, it can be a helpful addition.