Dr. Kassam The Ultimate Guide On How To Be Safe In The Sun
With summer quickly approaching, it is important to be prepared and remind ourselves about how to be safe while enjoying the sun! Keep reading this post to learn best practices when choosing a safe sunscreen as well as other sun safety tips!
Our bodies were made to love and flourish in the sunlight. The UV rays from the sun help to convert Vitamin D precursors in the skin (Vitamin D2) into the active form of Vitamin D (Vitamin D3). Getting enough Vitamin D through sun exposure plays such an important role in our mood, sleep, energy, motivation, immune function, hormone production and overall happiness. It also plays an important role in conditions like: cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, poor immune function and depression.
Despite all the wonderful things the sun can do for us, it does not come without any risks. Sun risks include: aging skin and increased risk of skin cancers. Every year, about 80,000 Canadians are diagnosed with skin cancer. It is therefore important to stay educated on sun safety practices to reduce the risk of sun damage.
One of the most important ways we can stay safe in the sun is to wear sunscreen. The skin is the body’s largest organ and allows for a good barrier to the external world but also allows for significant absorption while using sunscreen, making it important to choose wisely.
What Exactly Does Sunscreen Do?
The purpose of sunscreen is to block the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from entering the body. It is when UV radiation enters the skin that damage is caused to the body.
The sun emits both UVA and UVB rays. Most sunscreens only block UVB rays and allow UVA rays to enter the skin. UVA are the rays that cause tanning, prematurely age your skin which leads to wrinkles and age spots while UVB burns the skin. Too much exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.
There are two broad categories of sunscreen ingredients: chemical and mineral/physical filters.
The most common sunscreens contain chemical filters (ex. Oxybenzone, avobenzone) which are easily absorbed into the body and lead to hormone disruption. Mineral filters include: titanium oxide and zinc oxide which block both UVA and UVB rays and form a shield on top of the skin to prevent deep absorption.
What is SPF?
Sun protective factor (SPF) measures how well sunscreen protects against UV B rays. It is calculated based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that is treated with sunscreen. There is no way to report UVA absorption. So always pick a broad spectrum sunscreen as this can protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
What Are Some Pros/Cons Of Sunscreen Use?
** Important to note that these cons only pertain to chemical sunscreens and not mineral ones like zinc oxide
What To Avoid In Your Sunscreen?
What To Look For When Shopping For Sunscreen?
Picking a good quality sunscreen is very important. It is best to pick a broad spectrum sunscren as mentioned earlier, one that offers long-lasting protection and one with ingredients that does not cause long term health damage.
EWG Top Rated Sunscreens:
How To Properly Apply Your Sunscreen:
The most common mistake that people make when using sunscreen is improper application. Sunscreen needs to be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure as this is the amount of time it takes for the sunscreen to be absorbed into the skin. In terms of how much to apply, it should form a thin protective film on the skin’s surface, about 1 ounce. Always remember to reapply sunscreen after going in the water or after sweating.
Other Important Tips for Staying Safe In The Sun:
The best protection against too much harmful UV rays is a combination of clothing, shade, good timing and sunscreen. Keep in mind that sunscreen ALONE does not prevent skin cancer. It is important to combine safe sunscreen with time spent in the shade, with a hat and clothes. Here is a checklist to follow:
Sun Safety Tips For Kids
Did you know that sunburns in children can actually double the risk of developing skin cancer? Research is clear that intermittent, intense sun exposure in childhood is linked to melanoma which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is important to prevent sunburns in children. Children who have light coloured skin, eyes and play in the sun for long periods are at a higher risk.
Sun Safety Tips for Infants
Infants < 6 months should be kept out of the sun as much as possible. At this age there is very little melanin production. When you take your baby outside make sure to:
How To Speed Up Recovery From Sunburns
A sunburn is a burn to the skin that is caused by exposure to UV rays of the sun - specifically UVB radiation. It can appear as a red, painful skin lesion that is also hot to touch. Sun burns will usually set in 2-6 hours after exposure, peaks at 12-36 hours and fades after about 72 hours.
After sunburns, negative effects on the body include: inadequate DNA repair, decreased immune response, damage to melanin cell and free radical damage.
It is helpful to use products that will help to cool and soothe the burn. You want to avoid lotions and creams, which can actually lock in the heat. Try the following tips post sunburn:
Overall, enjoy your time outside, just be safe! Spending too much time in the sun increases your risk for skin cancer and early skin aging. To decrease this risk regularly use sunscreen, limit time in the sun, wear hats, light clothing and reapply often. Be sure to choose the tips presented in this article when picking out your safe sunscreen!
** Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.