Why is sun protection important?
Short term UV radiation from the sun causes sunburn and immune suppression. Chronic sun exposure can lead to photoaging and skin cancer. Skin cancer is currently the most common type of cancer.
What is photoaging?
Photoaging is premature aging of the skin due to damage from UV rays. It is described as a dry, rough, leathery appearance to the skin with fine and deep wrinkles.
What part of the suns rays are damaging?
The ultraviolet (UV) radiation that comes from the sun and tanning bulbs is damaging to the skin. It is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, with wavelengths shorter than that of visible light, therefore you can’t see it.
There are three types of UV light:
UVA - penetrates the skin the deepest causing wrinkles and aging. It is also responsible for sun reactions to medications. More than 95% of solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface is UVA
UVB - is the most damaging to our skin. It is the main cause of sunburns as it is nearly 1000 times stronger than UVA rays.
UVC - is the most dangerous, but virtually all of it is absorbed by the Earth’s ozone.
What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF gives the wearer that many times longer in the sun without burning. For instance, if you burn in 10 minutes without wearing sun screen, you will have 150 minutes of protection with SPF 15.
How do sunscreens work?
There are two different kinds of sunscreens:
Chemical agents (sunscreens with Avobenzone, Dioxybenzone, Meradimate, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, or Padimate O) – act by absorbing UV rays and convert the energy into heat
Physical agents (sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide)― reflect or scatter UV light. These sun-screens protect against both UVA and UVB light.
What should you look for in a sunscreen?
Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB. If you are going to be in the water or doing sports, choose a water-resistant sunscreen –these have SPF maintained after 40 minutes of water immersion. Better yet are very water-resistant sunscreens which have SPF maintained after 80 minutes of water immersion.
At the start of the summer check to make sure your sunscreen from last year hasn’t expired!!
How should sunscreen be applied?
Sunscreen should be applied 15 – 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, allowing sufficient time for the protection to develop. Sunscreen should be applied liberally – up to 1 oz. (30 g) of product may be required to cover the entire body surface. Make sure to apply it to your nose, ears, toes and anywhere else that is exposed to the sun.
Sunscreen should be reapplied after prolonged water immersion or vigorous activity leading to sweating. For these activities “water-resistant” or “very water resistant” products are recommended. It’s a good idea to reapply sun screen every 2 hours to ensure maximum protection.
When is sunscreen needed?
Depending on latitude and climate, sunscreen may need to be applied year-round, including on cloud covered days, when up to 80% of UV light may still reach Earth’s surface.
Sunscreen use is most important between 10 AM and 4 PM when exposure to UV light is the strongest. Sunscreen with SPF 15 are sufficient for intermittent, and casual daily use. However, SPF 30 or greater is recommended for prolonged recreational or occupational exposures to the sun, especially in fair-skin individuals
Pharmacist Recommended sunscreen:
Banana Boat Sport Performance 30
Coppertone Waterproof Sunscreen 30
Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport 30
For more information visit www.cancer.ca
- For mild sunburn take a cool bath, apply cold compresses for 20 minutes at a time, and rehydrate by drinking plenty of water.
- Keep the skin well moisturized with a soothing moisturizing lotion such as Aveeno (with oatmeal).
- If sunburn is moderate an oral anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or pain reliever such as acetaminophen may be used.
SUN SAFETY FOR CHILDREN
The sun can be a great thing; it makes us warm and can help plants grow. But it can also hurt us and cause unwanted effects such as sunburn, premature skin aging, and even cancer. Certain people are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. Those with light colored skin, hair, and eyes, and anyone who experienced sunburns as a child (especially those that presented with blistering) belong to this group. This makes it critical to limit sun exposure and prevent sunburns, especially during the early years. Babies sunburn easier and have more sensitive and thinner skin than adults. It’s up to you to protect your baby. A baby can’t tell you when he or she is too hot or beginning to sunburn, and can’t move out of the sun into the shade without your help. There are many things that you can do to prevent the harmful effects of the sun on your children while allowing them to enjoy the outdoors. These include:
- Have them avoid playing out in the sun during peak hours (between 10am and 4 pm) if possible.
- Cover them up with protective clothing or provide cover in the shade. Dressing your children in pants, long sleeved shirts, gloves, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses will protect them from the sun. Loosely woven, white, or wet clothing offers less protection than tightly woven fabric. You can also create shade using stroller hoods/covers, umbrellas, trees, buildings, etc.
- Ensure they are wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen is not recommended for infants less than 6 months old; at this age it is best to just avoid direct sun exposure. If sun exposure is unavoidable, a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen for babies can be applied to small exposed areas (e.g., face, back of hands). For those over 6 months of age ensure sunscreen is used properly. When using sunscreen it is important to use enough and to rub it in well. It should be applied at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied every 2 hours for optimal protection. Be sure to apply it to all exposed areas, especially your child’s face, nose, ears, feet, and hands, and even behind the knees.
For infants, a physical sunscreen is best, as it is minimally absorbed into the skin and less likely to cause sensitization. Physical sunscreens begin to work to protect your baby immediately after application, whereas chemical sunscreens need 30 minutes to start working. We recommend “Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby” as it is a lotion based sunscreen for easy application. Not only are the active ingredients physical, but it is hypoallergenic, waterproof, SPF 50, and has broad spectrum coverage. Broad spectrum means it will protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. It is also dermatologist recommended.
For older children we recommend the lotion based sunscreen “Hawaiian Tropic Kids” for its ease of application. It is broad spectrum, SPF 60, waterproof, and is pediatrician tested. It also comes with a small travel size bottle, which is great for leaving in your purse or travel bag so that you have it with you all of the time.
Remember, the effectiveness of any sunscreen may be increased if it is applied 30 minutes before exposure and reapplied every 2 hours, particularly if swimming.
If you have questions about sun safety, using sun screen, or treating a sunburn, ask your pharmacist for advice!