Despite numerous warnings and daily UV index advisories, Aveeno and Neutrogena surveyed Canadians and discovered that 1 in 4 do not use sunscreen on a regular basis and 1 in 3 do not view tanning as a risk.
“That might help explain why more than 81,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, including about 6,000 who will be diagnosed with the most deadly form, melanoma.”
Of the few Canadians that actively protect their skin from the harmful ultraviolet radiation, the choices of sunscreens are endless and confusing.
The Sun Protection Factor…
For instance, many believe that the SPF rating allows one to be out in the sun longer, the higher the rating. As such, applying SPF 60 means you can be out twice as long as you could with SPF 30 before having to reapply. However, in reality, the Canadian Cancer Society advises that SPF 15 sunscreen will block roughly 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 will block out about 97% UVB rays, making SPF 30 nowhere near twice as effective.
According to Marianne Berwick, a professor of epidemiology at the University of New Mexico, "The high SPF numbers are just a gimmick". In addition, many dermatologists believe that companies should not be allowed to promote rating higher that SPF 50.
In fact, “the U.S. FDA is working on setting a limit to SPF promises on sunscreen labels, but for now, the Canadian Dermatology Association advises Canadians to aim for an SPF of at least 30.”
On the other hand, some dermatologists believe that that issue lies within the amount of sunscreen used and not the SPF rating since manufacturer’s measure their rating based on using a considerable amount of sunscreen at once.
For example, Toronto-based dermatologist Dr. Paul Cohen advises that the average bottle of sunscreen should last about a week and not an entire summer.
Of course, this means reapplying after a certain amount of time has elapsed and even more often after swimming and sweating, for regular and waterproof brands.
The Spray Sunscreen…
In recent years, the popularity of spray sunscreens has grown as they are much quicker, convenient and less messy.
However, Respirologist Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, of Toronto Western Hospital, notes that certain ingredients in these sprays can be very harmful, especially in children.
“Many contain oxybenzone, a chemical that absorbs ultraviolet light. While Health Canada and the American Academy of Dermatology says the chemical is safe for the skin, there are concerns that breathing it into the lungs might not be safe for children, because the chemical can act as a synthetic estrogen.”
In addition, Stanbrook indicates that the aerosol spray sunscreens contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Such exposure these substances have been associated with some lung diseases and, although few studies exist, the aerosol spray creates particles of perfect proportion for breathing into the lungs.
Basically, Dr. Stanbrook advises against using such a product on children or in direct contact with the face.
Additionally, spray sunscreens are now known to be a fire hazard as a Massachusetts man suffered second-degree burns on his chest and back last year when he walked over to his barbecue shortly after applying spray sunscreen igniting the vapour trail.
Therefore, a final warning with spray sunscreen is to steer clear of open flames or be certain the sunscreen is fully absorbed into the skin.
According to Health Canada…
Protect your health by using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Look for claims on the label indicating that the product is resistant to removal (e.g., water resistant, very water resistant, waterproof).
For best results, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen and respect the waiting period between application and exposure to the sun. If you are sweating heavily or swimming, reapply sunscreen often to get the best protection.
Here are other steps that Health Canada recommends you take to protect against UV exposure:
- If possible, avoid being in the sun between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Look for shade, stay under a tree, or use an umbrella.
- During outdoor activities, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. When the UV index is three or higher, you should also wear protective clothing and a large-brimmed hat.
- Remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of your skin.