Sunburn and sunscreen safety tips to keep your family safe and having fun
Before you hit the lake, the beach, the boat this summer, follow these easy tips to keep yourself and your family sun-safe.
Although the symptoms of a sunburn are not permanent, sunburns can damage skin cells permanently. Sunburns can lead to premature aging of your skin — as well as skin cancer.
Everyone is susceptible to sunburns. In fact, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the skin in as little as 15 minutes.
How Does a Sunburn Occur?
Melanin is what gives your skin its color. When exposed to UV light from the sun or from tanning beds and sunlamps, your body produces more melanin as a form of protection. This is why you may notice a tan when you get some rays.
However, the ability of the body to protect itself only goes so far. Sunburns occur when you are exposed to a great amount of UV light that exceeds the ability of your body to protect your skin.
Sun Safety Tips
- Reduce the time you spend in the sun. This is particularly important when the sun's rays are the strongest, so be sure to check the UV index to help plan outdoor activities. The sun's rays are typically the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Dress to protect your body from the sun's rays. This means wearing a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants. Furthermore, using an umbrella is recommended. You may consider wearing clothes or outdoor gear that offer sun protection. These products will usually come with information on their ultraviolet protection factor.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes. When selecting sunglasses, make sure they:
- Wrap around the face and block as close to 100 percent of both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) as possible. Sunglasses that are more expensive do not necessarily offer more protection.
- Are labeled as sunglasses. Children should wear real sunglasses instead of toy sunglasses, which do not offer UV protection.
- Apply sunscreen generously. To cover the body from head to toe evenly, you need at least one ounce of sunscreen (about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass) for an average-sized adult or child.
- Babies and children need extra precautions and sun protection. Keep your baby and small children in the shade as much as possible.
A cloudy day does not mean you're in the clear when it comes to sunburns. Applying sunscreen is recommended even on slightly cloudy or cool days. This is because UV rays can pass through clouds. And snow, sand, water and other surfaces can reflect UV rays.
How do you choose a sunscreen?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin.
Here’s how it works: it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red. Using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours.
Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 per cent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 per cent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 per cent. The difference may seem negligible, but for light-sensitive individuals, or those with a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make an important difference. Furthermore, higher SPF values offer some safety margin, since most people generally do not apply enough sunscreen.
Shedding ligh on sunscreens:
- Choose broad-spectrum. Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen ensures you are protected from both UVB and UVA rays. One with at least three of the following active ingredients: salicylates, and/or cinnamates for UVB absorption; benzophenones (such as oxybenzone) for shorter-wavelength UVA protection; and avobenzone, ecamsule (Mexoryl), titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide for the remaining UVA spectrum.
- Offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or 30 (per the American Acadaemy of Dermatology and Health Canada).
- Do look for the new seal of recognition for proper UVA & UVB protection. Only a sunscreen with a UVA protection factor that is one third of the UVB protection factor can possess the new seal of recognition issued by Health Canada
- If you have acne, then use a chemical sunscreen labeled as non-comedogenic.
- A mineral sunscreen may be pregferable if you have sensitive skin.
- Avoid inhaling sunscreen sprays. Sprays should not be applied directly to the face or head but rather spray into hands and spread on face/head.
- The best sunscreen for infants -- avoid direct sunlight for infants 6 months or younger. Use lightweight clothing that covers arms and legs and brimmed hats. Keep in shade or make shade.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a small amount of sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) may be applied to limited areas of infants under six months if there is no way to avoid the sun. Health Canada does not recommend use of sunscreen on infants under six months.
- Physical sunscreens (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) and those labeled for use in children may be less irritating.
Although no sunscreen is waterproof, try to select a sunscreen that is water-resistant. If a sunscreen is labeled as water-resistant, this means it is required to be tested and will indicate if the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating.
Even though the sunscreen may be water-resistant, it will still need to be reapplied. See the directions on the label to know how often to reapply.
Sunscreen can protect your skin from the sun's rays — but only if it is applied correctly. When applying sunscreen, make sure to do the following:
- Do use enough. To get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply one ounce – about two tablespoonful or handfull per BODY APPLICATION. Most people apply only one-half to one-quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on their body is lower than advertised.
- A total of seven teaspoons can be distributed as about one teaspoon for each of the following: each arm, each leg, the face and neck, front of the torso, the back. The total amount should be adjusted based on body surface area (less for children and more for patients who are obese).
- Apply at least 15-30 minutes before going outdoors, especially before getting wet, giving the ingredients enough time to bind with the skin.
- Apply sunscreen to skin that is exposed. This includes your face — especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands and feet.
- Apply every morning to face, neck and hands. These are exposed all the time, all year round.
- REAPPLY at least every two hours. Reapplication of sunscreen is typically required more often if you are getting wet or if you are sweating.
- Apply to your head if you do not have much hair. Wearing a cap or hat is also recommended.
- Do wear sunscreen daily, including cold or cloudy days – up to 40 per cent of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day.
- Find a formula that is easy to apply and feels good ont he skin....you will be more likely to use it.
- Sunscreen and bug spray? Use separate sunscreen and insect repellent products.
- Sunscreen must be applied more generously and more frequently.
- Apply sunscreen first, allow it to dry (about 30 minutes), then apply the insect repellent.
Prescription and OTC Medications
Some medications may increase your sensitivity to the sun and result in sunburns. Examples include certain antibiotics, such as doxycycline and fluoroquinolones. Speak with one of our pharmacists to see if any of the medications you take might increase your sensitivity to the sun