We are all the beneficiaries of the life-giving properties of sunlight. As with so many things, it’s about the right amount of exposure. Visible light is essential to life on earth, our mood and well-being, and physical health. Shorter light wavelengths such as UVA and UVB are harmful to us and have the ability to cause preventable skin cancer.
Here are some practical tips on how to maximize your time outside while staying safe:
Understand UVA and UVB. The World Health Organization has deemed UVA a class 1 carcinogen which increases the risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous and basal cell cancers. It also is responsible for accelerating wrinkle formation and general skin aging. UVB causes sunburn; it is also needed for Vitamin D production.
Be savvy about the sunscreen you choose. SPF refers to the length of added exposure time before burning from UVB. You need a minimum SPF of 30 as well as a wide or broad spectrum screen that also filters the more harmful UVA rays. Health Canada requires specifications to be on product labels.
Stay out of the sun during the hours when the sun is the hottest: 10 am -2 pm
Take advantage of hats and protective clothing. Loose weave fabrics will protect less than tighter, and some clothing lines offer fabrics with an added ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) to block UV radiation. Look for clothing and swimwear with a UPF rating of at least 25, but remember to still apply your sunscreen underneath.
Seek out effective shade such as umbrellas and dense trees. Clouds can offer a little cover but even a cloudy day will filter only about 30% of the UV rays.
Protect your eyes using glasses with Health Canada approved minimum protection. This is especially important when the sun’s rays are more horizontal and easily enter the eye as in the morning and afternoon. The tint in the glass offers no protection.
Supplement with Vitamin D rather than relying on sunlight. We don’t really know how much UVB exposure is needed to make adequate D and our ability to make D declines as we pass the age of 30.
Consider a physical sunscreen with micronized zinc and titanium which absorb UV rays at the skin surface before they can penetrate the skin. Chemical blocks, while effective, absorb UV in the skin and generate heat. Physical screens come in lotions and powders with a choice of tints and formulations to suit every skin concern.
Remember to apply SPF to your lips, the sensitive skin of the lips is very susceptible to sunburn.
Cut corners when it comes to choosing a full-spectrum sun screen that protects across the entire UVA and UVB spectrums.
Skimp on the amount of sunscreen you apply. There are many guidelines; the“teaspoon rule” is simple: 1 tsp for your face, head and neck, 1 tsp for each arm, 2 tsp for each leg, and an additional 2 tsp for your chest and back.
Forget to reapply after water and sweating. In fact, reapplying the 2nd coat will get you closer to where you need to be for effective protection.
Rely on the windows of your car and home as protection from the sun’s rays. While glass blocks UVB and tanning, it does not filter UVA, which causes skin cancer and photo-ageing such as sun spots and wrinkles.
And definitely do NOT use tanning beds, which do nothing but increase your risk for melanoma and other skin cancers in addition to making you look old before your time.
Added Tips For Little Ones:
Babies under 6 months should not be exposed to direct sunlight, and older children do better with protective clothing and hats. Get your children to wear sunglasses if you can manage it, as their eyes are more vulnerable than an adult’s. Think of sunscreen as their last line of defence, apply liberally and reapply often, especially if they are swimming or playing in the water. Physical barrier and mineral sunscreens are likely better for children than chemical, and as an added bonus, your children won’t complain as much about these as they don’t sting or have a bad taste!
At Live Young, we are committed to providing optimal choices for your individual needs, so ask us about which sun protection is best for you and those you care for.