A fun-in-the-sun fact sheet released by the Health District gives quick tips on how to stay safe while still benefiting from the sun’s rays.
“The sun sends us heat and light and is beneficial to our health,” the fact sheet states, pointing out that, “90 percent of our Vitamin D comes from sunlight hitting our skin but too much sun can cause skin cancer. It is important to balance the benefits and risks of exposure to sunshine and use sunscreen correctly.”
Download the fact sheet above and see the highlights below:
Four Steps to Playing It Safe in the Sun
1. Avoid Too Much Sun: Wear protective clothing (shirt, hat, pants, sunglasses) when in the sun for more than 15 minutes; seek shade as much as possible; avoid mid-day sun.
2. Apply Sunscreen to Exposed Skin: Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure; apply a generous coat and reapply every 2 hours or more often if getting wet or sweating heavily.
3. Choose Sunscreen Wisely: Look at the label. Choose a sunscreen that:
- Offers broad spectrum (UV-A & UV-B) protection;
- Is rated as SPF 15 or greater;
- Contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient or as a blend with titanium dioxide. These mineral blockers are preferable to chemical absorbers (see next page); and
- Is water resistant. (See more below.)
4. Do Get Some Sun Every Day: Your body needs a daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun. For most people 15 minutes of sunshine without sunscreen will not damage the skin and will give you enough Vitamin D.
How to Choose a Sunscreen
Read the label for the following features:
SPF 15 or greater: The SPF (sun protection factor) is an indication of how much extra time you can spend in the sun and not get a sun burn. For example, if it normally takes you 1 hour to get a sunburn, using a SPF 15 sunscreen will prevent a burn for 15 hours. But that is not realistic, as the sunscreen will wear off from swimming, sweating and contact with other surfaces. Proper use of a SPF 15 sunscreen is usually sufficient to protect the skin. A higher SPF is not needed and would still need to be reapplied just as often.
Broad spectrum coverage: It should protect against both UV-A and UV-B.
Zinc oxide: Broad spectrum coverage is provided by zinc oxide by itself or as a blend with titanium dioxide. These mineral blockers are preferable to the chemical absorbers, particularly oxybenzone, for which health questions have been raised (see next page).
Water resistant: The label will state how long protection will last in the water.
The choice of sunscreen also involves cost, availability and factors such as how the product looks, feels and smells once applied. The most important thing is that you actually use it.
Health Concerns Related to Too Much Sunscreen
Products that are meant to remain on the skin for hours at a time have the potential to release their ingredients across the skin and into the body. Questions have been raised about certain chemical absorbers (e.g. PABA, oxybenzone,) because they have endocrine disrupting (estrogen-like) activity. While this activity is weak, wearing sunscreen all day may lead to enough absorption to raise a concern. This is still an area of uncertainty that requires more research. In the meantime, it is prudent to use products based upon zinc oxide for most of your skin protection. If you find such products difficult to obtain or use, you can still use a product containing chemical absorbers. In this case, the best choice is a product that does not contain oxybenzone.
Vitamin A (retinol) is an ingredient to avoid because it can be absorbed across the skin and be a risk to pregnancy. Therefore, avoid products containing Vitamin A.
Some people have raised concerns about nanotechnology used in modern sunscreens. Zinc and titanium come in nano-sized particles to make the sunscreen clear rather than a white paste on the skin. The nanotechnology version of zinc/titanium does not get absorbed across the skin to a great extent and its action on the skin is as protective as old-fashioned zinc paste. Therefore, it is a good choice for sun block protection.
Infants and Young Children
For babies under six months of age, it is best to shelter them from the sun with hats, clothing and shade. If there is sun exposure, use sunscreen sparingly over small areas of exposed skin. Beyond 6 months of age you can use sunscreen normally but avoid the area around the eyes because children may wipe it into their eyes and cause irritation.
If you choose to use a spray sunscreen, be careful not to spray near the face. The chemicals from the sunscreen could be inhaled. Instead spray into your hand and then apply to exposed skin. Be sure to spray an adequate amount for complete skin protection.