Practice Safe Sun- Part One: Sunscreen Made Simple

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This is part one of a three-part series:
Part Two
Part Three

While shimmering golden skin is pretty much a summertime staple these days, achieving a bronzed bod the old fashioned way can be DANGEROUS with a capital D! Skin cancer instances are on the rise, with over 80,000 cases diagnosed in Canada each year. Caused by over exposure to UV rays, which we encounter when we are out in the sun & when using tanning beds, it is the most common form of cancer. There are more new cases of skin cancer each year than the number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers COMBINED – and the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation wants you to know that becoming a part of this statistic is PREVENTABLE. You can protect yourself from harmful UV rays in the most glamorous ways- and you don’t have to give up your glow to stay sun safe this summer!

Sun Safety 101

The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you NEVER use tanning beds. According to the foundation, using a tanning bed even once before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma by 75%. If you’re making a list of things to do to prevent skin cancer, write this one in big bold letters and maybe use a highlighter too. NEVER USE TANNING BEDS. There, I’ve said it and it’s out of the way… now what about that pesky sun emitting UV rays left, right and center? Summer comes for a glorious and fleeting few months and we hole ourselves up all winter long waiting to get out there and enjoy it. Avoiding sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin cancer, but of course, there are times (aka- summer) when that just isn’t practical. Sun protection (sun screen) is your best friend to help block UV rays when you’re spending time in the sun. Sun screen should be applied DAILY & year round to protect your skin from UV radiation.

There are many important things to consider when choosing and applying sunscreen. Something that I find is confusing for a lot of my clients is “SPF”. What does it mean and what does it do? SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”. The SPF measures the amount of UVB absorption, which are the rays that cause burning (ALL UV RAYS CAUSE CANCER). This number indicates the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned. For example, an SPF of 15 means you should be able to stay in the sun 15 times longer while wearing it than you would be able to without protection. The higher the number, the better, as higher SPFs also block a higher percentage of UV rays. Be aware, though, that an SPF higher than 50 offers only a minimal increase in UVB protection and many countries are capping SPF measurements at “50+”. Because the SPF only measures UVB absorption, it is also key to choose a sunscreen that protects against UVA rays as well. Check the products’ packaging for “broad” or “multi- spectrum” protection labelling.

The key to getting effective protection from sun screens is to use them correctly! Many people may not know the proper way to use sun screen and are at risk for sun burns, premature aging and skin cancer as a result of improper use.

  • More is truly more when it comes to applying your sunscreen and most people don’t use enough of it. The ideal application is two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin for complete protection – this means about 1 tablespoon of sunscreen for the face, neck, ears and chest and about 1 ounce (a shot glass full) for the rest of the body.
  • The chemical ingredients in sunscreen take at least 20 minutes to absorb into the skin. It is key to apply your sunscreen half an hour PRIOR to sun exposure.
  • As you spend time in the sun, the ingredients protecting you start to break down. Sun screen needs to be re- applied EVERY TWO HOURS to maintain UV protection, and should be applied AFTER moisturizer, and before makeup. Choose a mineral or powder sunscreen when wearing makeup so that you can easily reapply throughout the day.

Though smearing a greasy white balm from head to toe may not seem appealing to you, it is a small price to pay to avoid the damaging effects of the sun. Modern sunscreens can be comfortable and lightweight and many luxury brands house their SPF products in beautiful, makeup bag worthy packaging. There are many formulations and price ranges available to choose from, as long as you keep proper application in mind. You NEED to protect yourself from harmful UV rays, and sunscreen is one of your best defences.

Part Two
Part Three