Former trends of baking in the sun until you’re crispy have fallen to the wayside as many people are choosing to take care of their skin in the summer heat.
David Fulmore, a pharmacist at Fulmore’s Pharmacy in Pictou notes that UV rays from the sun are more powerful than they used to be and it is important to protect your skin.
Former Pictou resident Rebekah MacLaren, who is now the education director for a Canadian Cosmeceutical Skin Care Company at Medical Rejuvenation Centre in Vancouver says, “There are two types of harmful rays from the sun, UVA and UVB. UVA rays contribute to aging while UVB rays can cause sun burns. UVA rays contribute to 95 per cent of the skin’s aging. The burning rays, or UVB rays, are the ones that can cause cancer in the skin.”
And as Fulmore adds, the effects of sun damage can take years to surface.
But there are ways to combat the effects of sun damage as well as protect against skin cancers.
MacLaren says the best thing to do is start with using an anti-oxidant on the skin like vitamin E or vitamin C.
“Vitamin C is better because it protects the skin from any environmental aggressors like the sun, pollution and cigarette smoke.”
Next comes sunscreen.
“Skin concerns are on the rise and skin ages a lot faster when it is exposed to the sun,” explains Fulmore. “A minimum of SPF 30 is required for sunscreen to be effective.”
Sunscreens come in two forms, chemical barriers and physical barriers.
“Physical barriers better protect against the sun because they form a barrier from the sun’s rays on the skin. The best forms are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They reflect both UVA and UVB rays,” explains MacLaren.
When searching for a sunscreen, check the packaging to see what is in it.
“There are some sunscreens that are a combination of physical and chemical barriers, however, the chemical barriers are not as good because they don’t last as long on the skin, usually one and a half to two hours,” she says.
Fulmore says sunscreens can go up to 60 SPF or higher.
“The higher the number of SPF does not always mean a better sun protection, especially if you only apply it once throughout the day.”
He notes the SPF rating compares to not wearing sunscreen at all. If you are out in the sun for 10 minutes with no sunscreen you will burn, but if you wear SPF 30 sunscreen, you can be out in the sun 30 times longer.
A common misconception is SPF tells a user how long they can stay in the sun. This isn’t true because the amount of solar exposure can vary along with other factors like time of day, cloud cover, amount of sunscreen applied (which is often half of what is recommended) as well as wind and perspiration.
MacLaren adds, “SPF 35 is really all you need for sun screen protection. It provides 98 per cent protection from the sun’s rays. ” Information can be found at www.skincancer.org.
Both note that even on cloudy days, it is important to wear sunscreen because the rays are still breaking through.
Regardless, sunscreen should always be reapplied every couple of hours to maintain protection because of sweating in the heat.
“Tanning is the skin’s defence from burning,” explains MacLaren. “The darker your skin tone the more melanin and the more natural protection you have against the sun but that doesn’t mean sunscreen is not required.”
Fulmore adds, some medicines can make people more sensitive to the sun so it is important to check with a pharmacist to make sure you are properly protecting yourself.
“They say when you have a bad burn when you are younger it can come back to haunt you later in life,” he says.”
It is crucial to protect babies’ skin from the harmful sun rays. That’s why babies under the age of six months are not recommended to be out in the sun, they should be covered by canopies or blankets.
“It is not recommended to put sunscreen on children under six months of age. With small children, sunscreen should be reapplied often because they are so mobile.”
Know Before You Glow
►The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
►Vitamin C protects the skin from any environmental aggressors like the sun, pollution and cigarette smoke. It can be taken orally or administered in the form of a serum or cream.
►SPF refers to a rating that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin.
►All sunscreens need to be reapplied regularly because of sweating and water.
►It’s best to apply sunscreen a half hour before you plan to go outside so it has time to take effect.
►Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can help protect the ears and back of the neck in the sun.
► It is important to remember to protect your lips as well.
► Sunglasses with UV protection can help protect your eyes from harmful rays.
(Sources: Dave Fulmore, Rebekah MacLaren)
Dave Fulmore, owner and pharmacist at Fulmore’s Pharmacy in Pictou, shows some of the sunscreens available to protect your skin from harmful rays. (Harvie photo)