Skin and Sun: Better Information, Better Protection
By Mylène Poirier
Who says summer says sun! Wether you’re at the beach, hiking or practicing your favourite sport, chances are you’re exposed to UV radiation. Tanning lover or not, here are a few things to remember about sun exposure.
No matter the tone, your skin can be damaged by UV radiation. However, the paler it is, the more fragile and easier to damage it will be. Even if darker skinned (more melanin) people have fewer sunburns and a more resistant skin, it still suffers damage from the sun. To maximize your protection, make good use of your sunscreen, meaning:
- Choose a SPF30 or more sunscreen with a UVA/UVB protection
- Apply the equivalent of a shot (30 ml) for the body of an adult, 20 min before sun exposure or bathing
- Apply again after 2 hours and after sweating or bathing
- Respect the expiration date. This usually means 2 years for sunscreens.
Weather and environment
Summer or winter, UVA and UVB concentration is the same, so we need to protect our skin in both cases. As UV rays can pass through clouds, the use of sunscreen is recommended even when it’s cloudy outside. If you like hanging in the shadows, you’re not exempt from wearing sunscreen; indeed, UV rays are reflected by many surfaces and can come from many different places. Snow reflects 80 % of sun rays, water between 20 % and 25 %, and ground 10 %.
Tanning is a defensive reaction from skin cells when they’re being harmed by UV rays. To protect themselves, new cells will develop at the surface of the skin to create a barrier, melanin. This is the pigment responsible for our tanned summer skin. A sunburn is therefore the incapacity of cells to protect themselves, resulting in their destruction. The damage, permanent and invisible to the eye, accumulates with time, making the skin age prematurely (fine lines, dark spots, thickening) and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
To go beyond sunscreen:
- Wear clothes that block sun rays.
- Avoid prolonged sun exposition (more than 15 min)
- Avoid exposition between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada and the only one increasing among youth! The risk of developing a skin cancer is proportional to the exposition to UV rays before the age of 25. People who have had 5 sunburns or more have 2 times more risks to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Be careful: the skin of young people aged 0 to 18 is thinner and more fragile, and can sustain more damage.
So, when it comes to exposition, don’t forget your protection!