Protect your skin from UV rays
Do you know what to look for (and avoid) in sunscreens? This natural sun protection primer reveals which ingredients can keep you safe and healthy.
The word’s definitely out about the importance of natural sun protection. We’re well aware that the sun's UV rays are the major cause of skin cancers. With a few simple measures, you can keep your skin safe and still enjoy the summer sun.
Concern about sunscreen ingredients has been mounting, making it difficult for consumers to choose products that are healthy and effective.
Use a broad spectrum (effective against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. It’s worth noting that a higher SPF doesn’t offer a lot of extra protection. For example, SPF 30 sunscreen will filter about 97 percent of the sun’s rays, while SPF 50 sunscreen will filter 98 percent.
If you’re concerned about absorbing sunscreen ingredients through your skin, select a product that contains mineral sunblocks such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These ingredients aren’t absorbed, and they act by reflecting the sun’s rays. Choose a lotion rather than a spray, since airborne droplets can be inhaled and cause lung irritation.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit health and environmental watchdog, has raised concerns about the safety of a number of sunscreen ingredients. They’ve flagged oxybenzone and octinoxate, which they report as having hormone-disrupting effects and moderate rates of skin allergies. The EWG also warns against products containing retinyl palmitate, a vitamin A derivative, which has been associated with skin tumours in mice.
Remember that sunscreen can create a false sense of security and lead to spending too much time in the sun.
Before heading outside, check the UV index at weather.gc.ca. Try to avoid direct sunlight at times of the day when it’s most intense: 10 am to 4 pm. Plus, take these precautions to protect your skin.
|UV index reading||Recommended sun protection|
|0 to 2||No protection is required.|
|3 to 7||Protection is required. Seek shade during midday hours, apply sunscreen, and wear protective clothing.|
|8 to 11+||Extra protection is required. Try to avoid being outside during midday hours. Protective clothing and sunscreen are a must.|
Clothes are your first line of defence against damaging rays. Some stores even carry special sun-safe garments for children and adults.
These sun-safety actions are essential, whether you’re at the beach or out and about.
If you avoid the outdoors when it’s sunny, get your vitamin D levels tested by a health care practitioner. Since your body manufactures this vitamin through exposure to the sun, you may need to supplement.