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no such thing as safe sun

Summer's here, the days are long, and it's more important than ever to protect your skin. As a skin cancer survivor I'm here to tell you there's no such thing as safe sun, but the good news is you can be sun smart. Today I'm sharing my favourite sunscreens and summer skincare, but first let me back things up a little.

I'm a pale gal with a family history of various kinds of skin cancer, and I always considered myself pretty careful. But we all slip up from time to time, right? "I don't really need a hat, do I? They look stupid on me!" "I'm skipping sunscreen, I need a base tan!" And sometimes, we pay the price. Like I did in 2004.

At just 23 years old I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma skin cancer, a disease we commonly associate with an older crowd but it's actually rampant among Canadians aged 15-29.

What is malignant melanoma exactly? The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation calls it the most deadly of all skin cancers, with over 5,000 Canadians are diagnosed each year. And it claims over 900 Canadian lives each year. That's nearly three people a day, every day.

The Melanoma International Foundation states that melanoma is the most common cancer killer of young women, more common than breast cancer in ages 29-34. Think on that for a sec.

From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800% among young women and 400% among young men, yet it remains the most underfunded of all cancers by federal and private agencies.

Time to give our heads a shake.

In 2005 I was diagnosed with stage two melanoma, which means the cancer was in the surface layers of my skin but hadn't yet spread to my nearby lymph nodes (phew). I was told I'd need surgery right away, and that if successful, I likely wouldn't need chemo or radiation.

The surgery left a one inch by two inch scar on my upper right arm, but my doctors were satisfied they got it all and I didn't need further treatment. The scar made me self-conscious for years but honestly, I'll take it.

Since then, I see my dermatologist for annual follow up exams. She checks my many moles and freckles, asks me about changes I've observed, and identifies any areas that should be biopsied and sent for testing. In the years since my diagnosis I've had several biopsies, and each time the two to three week wait for test results is grueling.

But I'm grateful because so far the results have been negative every time. Yup, negative is a good thing! My most recent biopsy was just last month, and you folks sent such kind and supportive messages while I played the waiting game. Better believe I celebrated when those negative results rolled in!

my sun smart picks

As you can imagine, with a history like mine I've tried my fair share of sunscreens. In fact, so many of you have asked me about my favourites that I figured it was high time I shared them here. Let's get started!


Vichy Idéal Soleil Sport SPF 60 ($29.95) is my jam. As the name suggests, it's particularly good if you're active. Biking along the Rideau Canal? Parliament Hill Yoga? Bootcamp in the park? Chuck this in your bag and you're set. It's a creamier than a lotion but still isn't greasy. I use it on face and body. Love.

shiseido canada

Influenster kindly sent me Shiseido Sports BB Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ Wetforce ($48) and I'm HOOKED. This is a tinted BB cream (available in light, medium, and dark) that can totally replace your foundation, and it's crazy water resistant. It sets almost immediately so apply it quickly. Hitting the water with your paddle board? You simply MUST have this stuff!

biotherm canada

I frigging love Biotherm. IMHO they make some of the best skincare available, so I had to try their sun care products. Biotherm Urban Defense SPF 50 ($37) is light as air without a hint of grease even on oily skin. Perfect under makeup. Biotherm Aqua Gelée Autobronzante ($37) is a self-tanning serum for the face with no chance of orange and no stinky odour. Biotherm Lait Solaire Body Milk SPF 30 ($38) is a sunscreen for the body that's super lightweight and absorbs immediately. Smells fresh too!

la roche posay

I have SO much love for this classic French pharmacy brand. They make phenomenal products whether you've got hyper-sensitive skin, are recovering from surgery, or need sun protection. I have a whole drawer of La Roche Posay but for now I'm singling out two hardworking products.

La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra-fluid Lotion SPF 50 ($34) is a lightweight lotion for face that offers *just* enough coverage (less opaque than the Shiseido), and blends beautifully. La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral Body SPF 50 ($36) is a light lotion that absorbs immediately. No grease and no white residue!

bioderma canada

Bioderma is best known for their cult status SensiBio Micellar Water (the original!), but they make fantastic sun products too. I have their Photoderm Spray SPF 40 ($29.95) and their Photoderm Milk SPF 50+ ($27.95) and promptly misplaced both before shooting these photos. Highly recommend, though!

But my fave from this brand? Bioderma Photoderm Moisturizing Tanning Spray ($19.95). It's my favourite self-tanner for body that I've EVER used. It's a spray (not foam!) so you never need to touch the product with your hands at all: no tanned palms. Smells pretty good too! Love, love, love.

honourable mentions

1. Clarins UV 50 Écran Multi-Protection ($42). Full disclosure: this is probably my favourite untinted facial sunscreen EVER. Light as air, no white cast, perfect under makeup. Didn't shoot it for this feature because my bottle is so utterly beat up and most of the label has worn away -- it lives in my purse!

2. Sunscreen sticks. Whether you pick up La Roche Posay Anthelios Targeted Protection Stick SPF 60 ($21) or Vichy Idéal Soleil SPF 50 Protection Stick ($21), these sticks are super helpful for scars, the part in your hair, your nose, and any awkward bits.

3. Vichy Idéal Soleil After Sun Milk ($29.95). We all make mistakes. Stayed outdoors longer than we planned. Missed a spot. I get it. This stuff is SO comforting. My pal Matt works outside and recently got burned pretty badly, so I insisted he use this. It helps relieve the sting, replenish moisture, and minimize peeling.

4. Sun Bum SPF 30 Lip balm ($4.97). Available in 6 different scents/flavours (I have key lime), this is one of the few quality lip balms with sun protection and it's a steal to boot. Grab it online at or locally at The Ten Spot or most Shoppers Drug Mart locations.

don't forget your eyeballs

Eyes left unprotected from the sun are like little fried eggs smack in the middle of your face. Not smart!

All summer long, pop by Eyemaxx Optical Studio on Elgin Street and mention me to get 15% off ALL designer sunglasses. No exceptions, no fine print. Grab some Ray-Bans (like I did!), some Pradas, some Diors, you name it. They're all included and if you need prescription lenses you'll get 20% off those too!

Have a fave sunscreen? Have a question? Had a brush with skin cancer? Hit me up in the comments!

the legal stuff

Since we touched on some health topics this time around, let me cover off the legalese:

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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