Summer is finally here and, as Canadians, we’re ready to take advantage of every minute of sunshine and warm weather that we can. It’s the season for enjoying nature, but all of this time spent outdoors comes with some risks to be mindful of.
While we enjoy our long summer days, we get a lot of exposure to the sun. Soaking up some rays is fun and healthy, but it’s also important to use appropriate sun protection. Protective lotions and clothing help to shield our bodies from harmful UV radiation.
There’s a lot of misinformation about how to properly use sunscreen and stay safe. Separating the myths from the facts is key to keep harmful sun exposure to a minimum.
Myth #1: It’s overcast, so I’m safe from sun damage.
Sun damage comes from the radiation from the sun, which can still make its way through thick clouds. It’s still important to take steps to stay safe from sun exposure, even if it’s cloudy out.
Myth #2: I didn’t get sunburnt, so I didn’t get any sun damage.
Sunburns are a sure sign of some serious skin damage from the sun, but the skin may still be damaged even if there are no signs of a burn. The sun produces two types of radiation. UVB is responsible for most burns and cancers, but UVA can penetrate deep into the skin and make the effects of UVB even worse. Protecting against damage goes further than just preventing sunburns.
Myth #3: I applied sunscreen, so I’m completely safe from sun damage.
Applying sunscreen is an important step, but it only works when done properly. Choosing the right sunscreen, with enough protection, applying enough, and applying frequently enough are all important factors for making sure your sunscreen actually works.
Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that has a minimum of SPF 30, which blocks up to 97% of sun rays. The higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF), the more UV rays it will block. SPF ratings are based on how much longer they prevent sun damage compared to unprotected skin – for example an SPF of 15 protects skin 15 times longer than no protection, and an SPF of 30 protects 30 times as long. Keep in mind, though, that these numbers are based on using the sunscreen exactly as directed, including reapplying every 2 hours.
When applying sunscreen, use plenty and try to apply 15 minutes before you plan to go outside. Choose sunscreens that are water- or sweat-resistant to avoid sweating it off, and remember to reapply every 2 hours, or immediately after any activity that causes sweating or exposes the skin to water.
No sunscreen provides perfect protection, so practise other sun safety measures like covering up, staying in the shade, and avoiding excess sun exposure. It’s especially important to stay out of the sun between 11 am and 3 pm, when the sun is at its most intense.
Myth #4: I can’t use sunscreen with an insect repellent.
The two are very safe and effective to use together. Simply apply sunscreen first, and layer the insect repellant on top.
Myth #5: Certain skin types are safe from sun damage.
Just because the skin doesn’t show signs of burning, doesn’t mean that no damage has been done. UV rays can penetrate the skin deeply with cancer-causing damage. Sun protection is for everyone and is an important part of staying safe, especially during the summer.
Proper sun protection protects your skin from damage and helps you avoid painful burns. Choose the right sunscreens, use them properly, and use other methods to protect yourself from exposure to have a healthy and fun-filled summer.