Soak up the Sun

Recently there have been many complaints about the Banana Boat sunscreen to Health Canada. It appears that Health Canada is launching an investigation and we are yet to hear the results. However, it is a good time to think about what it means to practice sun safety.  It’s more than just applying sunscreen.

Many of the complaints of the Banana Boat Sunscreens are related to applications to toddlers or very young kids. Their skin is much more vulnerable.  The best protection is really to keep them out of the sun at the peak times (between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and wear wide brimmed hats. If they are in water for long, frequent application is key to preventing burns.  Also many new sunscreens are available as spray on which may be more convenient and less messy. However, these formulations may not be best for kids as application can be inadequate when they are not thoroughly absorbed through the skin. My recommendation is to go with the conventional lotions or creams when you must physically apply them onto the skin for good protection.

According to Health Canada, here are some sun safety tips to keep in mind:

Cover up. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat made from breathable fabric. When you buy sunglasses, make sure they provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Limit your time in the sun. Keep out of the sun and heat between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. When your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is very strong. Look for places with lots of shade, like a park with big trees, partial roofs, awnings, umbrellas or gazebo tents. Always take an umbrella to the beach.

Use the UV Index forecast. Tune into local radio and TV stations or check online for the UV index forecast in your area. When the UV index is 3 or higher, wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Use sunscreen. Put sunscreen on when the UV index is 3 or more.

Drink liquids (especially water). If sunny days are also hot and humid stay cool and hydrated to avoid heat illness. Dehydration is dangerous and thirst is not always a good indicator of how often you should drink liquids.

Avoid using tanning beds. If you do use them, understand the risks and learn how to protect yourself.

When applying sunscreen, Health Canada has the following recommendations:

Choose a high SPF. Protect your health by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF)of at least 15. The sunscreen should also say “broad-spectrum” on the label, to screen out most of the UVA and UVB rays.

Look for “water resistant”. Look for claims on the label that the product stays on better in water (“water resistant”, “very water resistant”).

Read application instructions. For best results, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label.

Use lots of sunscreen. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen.

Apply it early. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside; reapply 20 minutes after going outside and at least every 2 hours after that. Use a generous amount. Cover exposed areas generously, including ears, nose, the tops of feet and backs of knees.

Reapply often. Reapply sunscreen often to get the best possible protection especially if you are swimming or sweating heavily.

Protect yourself. Sunscreen and insect repellents can be used safely together. Apply the sunscreen first, then the insect repellent.

Sunscreens and babies. Do not put sunscreen on babies less than 6 months of age. Keep them out of the sun and heat as their skin and bodies are much more sensitive than an adult’s.

Test for an allergic reaction. Before using any tanning product on you or your child check for an allergic reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin. Apply it to a small patch of skin on the inner forearm for several days in a row. If the skin turns red or otherwise reacts, change products.

Be safe under the sun and enjoy the summer!


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My name is Cynthia Leung and I am a practicing pharmacist in Kingston Ontario, Canada. This blog is for me to share my ideas, opinions and perspectives on how medications are used in our health care system. Note that these posts are my own opinions and do not represent the opinions of my current or former employers and / or organizations that I may belong to. Any possible case scenarios described in my posts would be modified to maintain patient confidentiality. This blog is not a platform for professional advise for patients or health care providers and the content is not meant to support any clinical decisions or replace professional opinions. Also the images are either taken or created by the author, or adapted with permission. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts!

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