Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage This Summer by Practicing Good Sun Safety

The attraction of sunny summer days is hard to resist. In Canada, it’s the season of lazy vacations, days at the beach, and amusement park excursions with family and friends. Considering the long months of cooler weather Canadians face each year, it’s tempting to want to make the most of a short summer by enjoying as much time outside as possible.

Being in the sunshine feels like a healthy choice; it fosters a sense of well-being, and the sun is a source of Vitamin D. But the sun can also be harmful; excessive exposure to its ultraviolet (UV) radiation can not only cause sunburn and age our skin, it is also the primary cause of skin cancer, including its most dangerous form, melanoma. 

We need to make choices to protect ourselves and our family from the harmful effects of the sun, not only during summertime. It’s critical during the summer months, when we tend to spend more time outdoors, and when the UV radiation reaches its highest levels of the year. The Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) urges Canadians to make sun protection a part of an everyday healthy lifestyle. Throughout the month of May, the CDA marks National Sun Awareness Month and highlights the simple and effective steps we can take to be “sun smart.”

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF or Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher. Reapply to exposed skin frequently and remember to use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The radiation can still get through light cloud cover.
  • Stay out of the sun during midday when the UV rays are the most intense – between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.  As a general rule throughout the day, limit your sun exposure, including by staying in the shade as much as possible.
  • Wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats that protect your face and neck, tightly woven clothing, dark clothing that absorbs UV radiation and clothes that cover as much of the skin as possible. Also wear UV-protective sunglasses.

The CDA provides additional sun safety advice for parents who want to teach their children about protecting themselves when they’re on their own. A practical suggestion is to involve school age children by teaching them the “shadow test” – if your shadow is shorter than you, it is time to use maximum sun protection including by getting into a shady area.  Another reminder for parents: encourage your children to apply sunscreen when they’re on field trips, during outside breaks at school, and when playing outdoor sports.

A small percentage of people taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs find that their skin becomes very sensitive to the sun. They can get serious skin damage including sunburn, blisters, rashes or swelling when out in the sun. If you have concerns, consult your pharmacist to learn about any such risks associated with the medications you take.

The bottom line, when enjoying time outdoors, is that it pays to make sun safety a priority for a long, healthy life and healthy skin.