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Being safe in the sun
Nobody wants to stay inside when the sun’s shining. So when you’re outside, using a little SunSense can protect you and your family from getting too much sun.
If you work outdoors, you may be exposed to the sun for even longer periods, so be sure to follow these sun safety tips too.
Check the UV Index daily
Before going outside, check the weather forecast for the daily UV Index. On days when the UV Index reaches 3 (moderate) or more, you need to be extra careful to protect your skin. Try to reduce your time in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – when the sun’s rays are at their strongest – or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more. In Canada between April and September, the UV Index can be 3 or more from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., even when it’s cloudy.
If your shadow is shorter than you, it’s time to find some shade. Choose to sit under a tree at the park or under an awning on a restaurant patio. If you can’t find shade, create your own. Take along an umbrella – that way you can have shade wherever you need it. If you can see the sky from your shady spot, you still need to cover up with clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. UV rays can reach you in the shade by reflecting off surrounding surfaces.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun is to cover up.
- Cover up as much of your skin as you can with tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing. Clothes provide better protection than sunscreen.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim that covers your head, face, ears and neck. Hats like baseball caps won’t give you enough protection. Many skin cancers happen on the face and neck. These areas need extra protection.
- Put sunscreen on your ears, chin and neck even when you’re wearing a hat.
UV protection factor
Some clothing is specially made to be UV protective. The clothing’s label shows the UV protection factor (UPF). UPF measures a fabric’s ability to block UV rays from passing through and reaching the skin. The fabrics are classified into categories based on their UPF. Like SPF, the higher the UPF, the less UV radiation reaches the skin and the better the protection. The fabrics used for this clothing are often lightweight, and some may be treated with UV-inhibiting ingredients to help them block UV rays. It is important to remember that the UPF of this clothing is also reduced when it is overstretched, wet or worn out. Look for UPF 15 or higher. UPF 50+ blocks most UV rays..
Wear your sunglasses
Sunglasses can help prevent damage to your eyes by blocking a large percentage of UV rays. Keep your shades on and make sure your children wear them too. Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive to be effective, but make sure you choose close-fitting ones with UVA and UVB protection in a wraparound style. The label might have UV 400 or 100% UV protection on it.
Use sunscreen properly
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.
Don’t use indoor tanning beds
There’s no safe way to get a tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin. Don’t use indoor tanning beds or sun lamps.
Know the signs of skin cancer
Most skin cancers can be cured if they’re caught early enough.
Check your skin regularly.
© 2017 Canadian Cancer Society All rights reserved. Registered charity: 118829803 RR 0001
Printed: December 13, 2017
The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health. We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete. The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on cancer.ca, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.