We’re halfway through the summer, and while the battle with mosquitoes and black flies is almost over, a more important battle continues to rage between your epidermis and the sun. Yes, that warm, gorgeous sunlight that we crave all winter long and even escape to exotic locations to bask in is actually harmful to our skin and health.
Thankfully, there are ways to still have fun in the sun and stay safe at the same time.
Remember that year you left the thanksgiving turkey in the oven for too long? Well, lying in the sun for an extended period of time is basically like cooking your skin from the outside. The result: red, painful, peeling and sometimes blistering skin we refer to as sunburn.
So what exactly causes sunburn? We have ultraviolet (UV) rays to thank for that.
There are 3 types of UV rays:
- UVC is extremely dangerous but is mostly filtered out by the ozone layer.
- UVB radiation affects the outer layers of your skin, the epidermis, and is primarily responsible for sunburns (“Think B for burns”).
- UVA affects not only the epidermis, but penetrates the deeper layers of the skin known as the dermis. You can blame these rays for pre-mature aging and skin damage, like sun spots and wrinkles!
More importantly, both UVA and UVB radiation can cause skin cancer.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
The hottest accessory this summer isn’t bright jewellery or designer beach towels, it’s your sunblock! After all, healthy skin is always in style. In the summer, protecting your skin is more important than ever. Doesn’t matter if you have fair or dark skin, the sun does not discriminate. If you dare to go bare, prepare to get burned!
But it’s not as simple as lathering on the SPF and hitting the beach.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which measures the amount of UVB absorption. So all those numbers you see on sunscreen bottles actually mean something. They refer to the length of time that sunscreen protected skin can be exposed to UVB rays before it starts to burn, compared to the length of time it takes on unprotected skin. Knowing your skin type is essential for choosing the right sunblock.
For example: fair skin burns more quickly than darker skin. So if your skin type normally burns after 20 minutes without protection, proper application of SPF 15 would let you spend up to 300 minutes (or 15 times longer) in the sun without burning (even though, some sun damage may still be occurring).
How Sunscreen Works
Sunscreens, which come in a variety of forms—sprays, lotions, gels or waxes—can work differently depending on the ingredients and some are made up of chemical filters, physical filters or both.
- Chemical filters: absorb some UV radiation and convert it into heat (there are more chemical filters for UVB than UVA).
- Physical filters: scatter and reflect both UVB and UVA (usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide).
Tip: When shopping for sunblock, look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.
How much sunscreen do you need to use?
You need approximately 30mL to cover the entire body:
- ½ to 1 teaspoonful on the face and neck
- 1 to 1 ½ teaspoonfuls to arms, shoulders, and torso
- 2 to 2 ½ teaspoonfuls to the legs and tops of the feet
Minimize Your Risk
Never fear, sun worshippers, there is sunlight at the end of this tunnel. You can safely go from sun dissed to sun kissed by following these simple steps recommended by Health Canada,
• Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 that is water resistant or waterproof to exposed skin to the entire body (approx. 30mL)
• Reapply sunscreen often if you are sweating heavily or swimming for best protection
• Avoid being in the sun between 11:00am and 4:00pm when UV exposure is at its highest
• Look for shade, stay under a tree or use an umbrella
• During outdoor activities wear sunglasses to protect your eyes
• When UV index is 3-4x higher – wear protective clothing and a large brimmed hat
• Clothing that is wet, white or loosely woven provides very little protection from the sun
For more information about sun safety, ask your knowledgeable pharmacy team at the Canadian Compounding Pharmacy. Give us a call 416-239-3566 or leave a comment below.
Check out our upcoming blog “SPF 100? – How much SPF do I need?”
References:1. Health Canada. Sunscreens. It’s Your Health. June 2010 http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/life-vie/sun_soleil-eng.php Accessed July 27,2013.
2. Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation. Sunscreen. Accessed July 27, 13 http://www.canadianskincancerfoundation.com/sun-screen.html
3. Canadian Dermatology Association. Photoagaing. Accessed July 27, 13 http://www.dermatology.ca/skin-hair-nails/skin/photoaging/#!/skin-hair-nails/skin/photoaging/what-is-photoaging/ Accessed July 27, 13
4. Knowles Sandra. Chapter 64: Prevention and Treatment of Sun-Induced Skin Damage. In: Patient Self-Care 2nd Edition. 2010; Canadian Pharmacists Association. Toronto Ontario. p610.