Just wanted to add to this article from EWG (Environmental Working Group). It proves for interesting reading and illustrates how Canada, like many European countries, have stricter regulations on sunscreens:
And the original post follows:
There is a lot out there about the dangers of the sun. We also know that the body needs sunlight to metabolize vitamin D to stay healthy. I have complied some information into one blog to hopefully provide you with one place to get a lot of the information you may be wanting but haven’t found the time to research yourself. Know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, please talk to your dermatologist MD or personal physician in regards to sun safety. This is to serve as information only.
How to manage sun exposure safely and beneficially?
It is pretty common knowledge to limit sun exposure during the hours of 10 am to 4pm in the continental US. It is advised that one should stay in the shade during that time. But how practical is that? Pools, beaches, and soccer fields can be quite limited in the shade department. Hopefully what follows will help you navigate your sunny days ahead.
The best protection from the sun is clothing. In Australia, school children are required to wear hats that cover their necks at school. Australians can be seen wearing lightweight long sleeved shirts, pants and skirts. You can see this way of dress across the world in sunny regions. This not only protects one from the damaging sun rays, but also keeps one cooler.
Clothes marketed as sun protection:
I have included some clothing lines that are made in such a way that they provide protection equivalent to SPF 50-100. I am not promoting the style or the products…but just including a couple of links so people can imagine a doable sun protecting wardrobe.
REI, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer and other outdoor clothing companies have also created their own lines of clothing.
There are some really nice swimsuits, shirts, and cover ups for the whole family out there. I pulled my O’Neil swim shirt out for the first time this spring…after inspecting it I realize there are worn spots. Looks like despite my best care (rinsing it out after each use, using mild soap to wash it after a week of heavy use, drying it in the shade) it’s time is up. I don’t want to risk a splotchy sunburn.
Clothes in your closet:
So which clothes already in your closet are best for sun protection? The tighter the weave of the cloth, the better—simply, the ultraviolet rays have a harder time getting through the tighter weave. Synthetics and silks are more reflective. Darker colors are better than lighter. Clothes that are tightly stretched lose some of their protective powers as the weave is stretched and the rays can get through.
Don’t forget the hat! Broad brimmed of course.
Don’t forget those sunglasses—they protect your eyes from damage—lessening the chance of cataracts,macular degeneration and other eye problems. They also protect the skin around the eyes…from wrinkles as well as from burning. Additionally, anyone who has suffered from sweating sunscreen into their eyes can appreciate getting sun protection from sunglasses.
- Look for sunglasses marked 99-100% of UVA/UVB protection, or UV400 protection (400 is the smallest UV particle size that these glasses can protect against).
- If you spend lots of time around the water or snow it’s best to chose a polarized pair of glasses.
- What about those cheap sunglasses? Again, make sure they say that they have enough UVA/UVB protection. Otherwise you may notice that cheap glasses may give you a visual distortion.
- Chose the right lens shade for the task…dark lenses don’t protect out if you don’t wear them. You may find you don’t wear your dark lenses skiing because you can’t see the moguls in the shade. So have different lenses for different jobs (driving, skiing, beach)
There are no school imposed hats and not everyone wants to wear clothes that cover the body so completely, so let’s move on to sunscreens.
Which sunscreens are the best and how should you apply them? What sunscreens are safe? Are the “natural” ones better? Are sunscreen with nano particles safe? Should you choose a physical barrier sunscreen, a chemical sunscreen, or a sunscreen with both? How do you put it on correctly? How often should you reapply it?
On sunscreen application.
Sunscreen should be applied generously and evenly in a visible white coat. Start with your face and work down the body. After you have covered exposed body parts and you look like a ghost, go back and rub the sunscreen in so it is no longer visible. Don’t skimp on the amount, you’ll have less sun protection.
Nano particles in Sunscreen—are they safe?
The nano particles that compose chemical sunscreens don’t rub or spray on so obviously. This is a benefit aesthetically and perhaps less greasy but are nano particles safe? So far no adverse effects have been reported, but research continues. Apparently, research shows that sunscreen nano particles are found only on the surface layer of the skin and are not absorbed past the dead skin layer just below that. In other words, so far, there is no evidence that the nano particles are absorbed systemically.
When should you apply sunscreen?
Sunscreen application should be done 20 minutes before sun exposure. I personally question the point of putting sunscreen on and then immediately jumping in the pool or lake. The whole showering before entering a public pool is another hurtle for keeping on that sunscreen as long as possible.
How often should you re-apply sunscreen?
This question is influenced by many factors. You’ll need to reapply more frequently if you are sweating, swimming, using a SPF sunscreen under 30, and between the hours of 10am and 4 pm when the UVA and UVB rays at their “strongest.”
Any SPF of 30 or over provides basically the same protection, meaning you reapply sunscreen with an SPF 85 as frequently as one with an SPF of 30. It seems that the general consensus is reapplication of and SPF of 30 and above should be every two hours (barring swimming, sweating, etc). More conservative sources say every hour. In part it may depend on how easily you burn (see below).
What sunscreens are best? Which SPF should I use?
Make sure that it provides “full spectrum” protection…for both UVA and UVB.
Whatever sunscreen you use, it is agreed upon that a minimum of SPF 15 is required. SPF over 50 is not necessarily recommended. Where SPF 30 protects you from 97% of UVB, SPF 50 protects you from 98% of UVB. The difference in protection from UVA rays is not rated by the SPF so no point in buying a higher SPF to protect you from the aging UVA rays.
Also, the higher SPF doesn’t mean you can reapply it less frequently…so it’s no bargain. Basically, is about marketing. (see section above on how often you should re-apply sunscreen).
There is a wonderful website resource by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), it’s a self proclaimed non-profit watchdog that evaluates sunscreens’ ingredients for safety and effectiveness. They also say how strong the research is behind each of the ingredients. It then “grades” every sunscreen, indicates how expensive they are, and even lists the sunscreens they deem best.
You can also find EWG’s evaluation of cosmetics and household cleaning products.
To get to 2012’s sunscreen guide directly http://www.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/ When they come out with their 2013 guide, this hyperlink will forward you to the 2013 updated link.
If your sun sensitive:
That omega 3 fish oil or flax supplement you are supposed to take? Well, it has an additional benefit of skin tissue repair. Take your dose in the morning at least two hours before you head out for the day and it may lessen your sensitivity to the sun. It may be good to add a dose after a day where you fear you have had too much sun exposure. On a side note, make sure that you have a good quality fish oil supplement from a reputable company that practices sustainable fishing and has quality controls ensuring that their product is mercury free.
Experts now believe adequate vitamin D is important to help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, several cancers, and many other diseases. Ironically, the skin cancer causing UVB rays are responsible for vitamin D production and utilization in our bodies.
We can take a vitamin D supplement but our bodies cannot metabolize it effectively without the trans formative powers of sunlight. So sun is key.
So how much sun is safe? Apparently 10 unprotected minutes in the midday sun in the summertime (during winter due to the angle of the sun the UVB rays don’t hit us north of Atlanta, so there will be no vitamin D benefits for wintertime sunbathing). Your arms and legs provide enough skin exposure to get the vitamin D boost.
So….rather than applying sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sunshine, I try to apply my sunscreen no more than10 minutes before I head outdoors to get that unprotected time. I actually don’t know if I can manage to get sunscreen on any earlier before I head out the door. I don’t know if this would be advised by an MD…so check with your dermatologist on that bit of “advice.”
You got burned…now what?
Despite our best efforts, burns happen. For my family and clients I use a Chinese burn cream, but aloe vera does a good job as well…it doesn’t block the skin pores keeping the heat in. I think the burn cream is easier to use than breaking off aloe leaves. If you chose to buy a bottle of aloe vera check the ingredients to see about its purity. A few minutes (not hours) in a cool (not cold) bath with or without baking soda or oatmeal can also be soothing. Very cold baths will restrict the skin pores not allowing the heat from the burn to escape..
So the bottom line is cover up, pick a sunscreen you feel comfortable with and use it liberally and often. Get a nice pair of glasses.