Sunscreen absorbs UV rays and prevents them from penetrating the skin. Sunscreens are rated by the strength of their SPF. The SPF tells you the product’s ability to screen or block out the sun’s UVB rays. SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of UVB rays. Sunscreen with SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays.
Health Canada regulates the safety and quality of sunscreens in Canada. Sunscreen products are classified as drugs and must meet Canadian requirements.
Use sunscreen along with shade, clothing and hats, not instead of them. Remember that sunscreens are not meant to be used so that you can stay out in the sun longer. They are meant to increase your protection when you have to be outside. Sunscreen should be used on any exposed skin not covered by clothing.
- Use an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Make sure the sunscreen is labelled broad-spectrum (offers both UVA and UVB protection).
- If you’re in the water, make sure your sunscreen is water-resistant.
How to apply sunscreen
Apply a generous amount of sunscreen. Don’t forget your ears, nose, neck, any bald spots, the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet. The average adult needs about 2 or 3 tablespoons of sunscreen to cover their body and a teaspoon to cover their face and neck.
- Put sunscreen on first, before any makeup or insect repellent. Follow the directions on the bottle to apply. Don’t spray aerosol or pump repellent products directly onto your face. Spray the product on your hands and then rub it carefully over the face, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
- If you forget to put it on before going outside, it’s not too late! Put it on as soon as you can and reapply according to the directions, especially after swimming or sweating.
- Use a lip balm with SPF and reapply when needed. Your lips need protection too.
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on cloudy days and during the winter months.
- Try different sunscreens until you find the one you like. Talk to your pharmacist if you need help in choosing a sunscreen.
Some products combine sunscreen with make-up or moisturizer. Always check that the sunscreen is broad spectrum, and follow the directions for how much to apply and how often. If you’re not sure that the make-up or moisturizer protects you from both UVA and UVB rays or the packaging doesn’t include directions, you may want to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen along with it.
Sunscreens have an expiry date that is usually visible on the container. Sunscreens contain chemicals and they should not be used after the expiry date because they may not work as well. Sunscreens can be affected by extreme changes in temperature. If it has been frozen or overheated, throw it out. If the sunscreen has changed colour or smell, throw it out.