Skin Central - Sun care


Sun care: Safe sun care
Avoid sun damage while keeping your skin supple and healthy
First published in’s November 2003 issue.
© Rogers Publishing Ltd.
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Everyone has heard about the damage the sun can do to your skin, but did you know that the sun’s rays are responsible for more than 80 per cent of fine lines, wrinkles and sun spots?

UV radiation is the main cause of skin damage and premature aging, sometimes referred to as photo-aging. There are two types of UV rays to be concerned about: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are longer, penetrate more deeply into the skin’s layers and are mainly responsible for contributing to skin cancer and aging. UVB rays are shorter, affect the skin’s outer layer and are the main cause of sunburn. Both rays can also contribute to the risk of developing skin cancer.

There is no such thing as a safe tan, especially if you want to maintain youthful and healthy-looking skin. To minimize the effects of the sun you must use sunscreen daily, even in the winter. Although UVB rays diminish in winter, UVA rays are still strong and can reflect off of the snow.

Choosing a sunscreen

• Look for the words broad spectrum or UVA/UVB sun block when selecting a sunscreen. In Canada, check for the Canadian Dermatology Association logo on the package to be sure your sunscreen covers UVA and UVB rays along with other important criteria.
• For maximum protection, use a sunscreen that has an SPF factor larger than 15.

Master the art of application

• Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go out in the sun.
• Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours if you are in the sun all day, more frequently if you are sweating.
• Even waterproof sunscreens can wear off and lose effectiveness within 90 minutes. Make sure you reapply after swimming, especially if you towel off.

Cover up your vulnerable spots

• Lips are extremely susceptible to sunburn, and we often forget to apply protection to that area. Since the skin around the mouth is very vulnerable to fine lines and wrinkles, use a lip balm or sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30. If you are swimming, sweating or lick your lips a lot, reapply the lip balm continually throughout the day.
• Pay special attention to areas that show a person’s age—the tops of hands and feet, back of neck, ears and chest are all places where sunscreen should be applied liberally.
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, the first place to show aging from sun exposure.
• Invest in a good pair of sunglasses that provide protection against UVA/UVB rays.

Practise proper sun behaviour

• Aside from applying sunscreen regularly, you can also reduce the effects of long-term sun damage by changing your outdoor habits.
• Avoid midday sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the UV index is at its highest. Check the weather network before you go out—anything over a rating of 7 means you could burn in 15 minutes if unprotected.
• Sitting in the shade can protect you from some of the sun’s harmful rays. Take an umbrella to the beach or sit under a tree.
• Cover up exposed skin with cotton long-sleeve shirts and pants.

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