What Kind of Sunscreen Should I Look For?
Choosing a sunscreen can be confusing! Here are some tips for picking a sunscreen that will help protect you from ultra-violet radiation:
- Sunscreens reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) absorbed by the skin, preventing sunburn and other UVR-induced changes in the skin.
- Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth – ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer and melanoma. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles, age spots and worse, potentially skin cancer including melanoma. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn.
- Use sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
- SPF 30 sunscreens block approximately 97% of the sun’s rays. Higher number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s rays but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s rays.
- High-number SPF sunscreens last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs
- Sunscreens should be broad spectrum – this means that they will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Look for sunscreens that are water resistant. Sunscreen should be re-applied approximately every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy or cold days, and after swimming or sweating.
- Be sure to read the expiration date on the bottle. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time.
When to Wear Sunscreen
- Sunscreens should be used on exposed skin not covered by protective clothing, which offers more effective skin protection.
- Apply sunscreen everyday when outdoors. The sun emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays all year round.
- Use a generous amount of sunscreen. Reapply sunscreen based on activity level, immediately after swimming, toweling off or sweating heavily.
- Applying sunscreen about 15 minutes before going outside helps your skin to absorb it before exposure, but once outside, it’s not too late to apply.
- Health Canada recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
- Sunscreens come in a variety of formulations. Find one that suits you best.
- In Canada, all sunscreens have passed a review by Health Canada and are given a drug identification number (DIN).
- For a list of recommended sunscreens from the Canadian Dermatology Association please click here