Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Canada? In fact, one third of new cancer cases are skin cancers, and this rate continues to rise.

One of the best ways to decrease your chances of getting skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun — and with summer on its way, this is the time of year to take extra precautions!

Summertime in the Okanagan is known for its warm, sunny weather and countless outdoor activities. Of course, we’re not suggesting that you stay inside and miss out on all that this beautiful season has to offer. If covering up, wearing a hat, or sticking to the shade isn’t an option, then wearing sunscreen is a great way to reduce the harmful effects of the sun.

But how do you know which sunscreen to choose? With so many options, pinpointing the right one for you can be a challenging task. Here are a few things to look out for when shopping for sunscreen.

SPF

Many people are familiar with the term SPF and know that it has something to do with how long the coverage lasts, but don’t understand exactly how it works.

What does SPF mean? SPF stands for ‘Sun Protection Factor’. The idea is that if you multiply the SPF number by how long it typically takes you to burn, you’ll get the amount of time that it will protect you for. For example, if it typically takes you 20 minutes in the sun to begin burning, then SPF 30 should protect you for 600 minutes.

However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t typically work this way in reality. Most people don’t actually apply enough of the product to receive the full SPF, and how long the protection lasts for depends on the quality of the product, the strength of the sun, your skin type, the activities you’re doing, and so on.

Don’t let the equation fool you — no matter the SPF, it’s important to reapply every two hours, as well as after sweating or being in the water.

Which level of SPF should you choose? A common suggestion is to use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30. However, higher SPFs can sometimes lead to a false sense of security — remember that it’s important to reapply often no matter the SPF.

What does SPF protect against? SPF represents how well a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays, which cause sunburns and can lead to skin cancer. Note that sunscreens still don’t offer 100% protection, and regular SPF does not typically offer any protection from UVA rays which can also be harmful.

Broad Spectrum

UVA rays are less intense than UVB rays, but are still very prevalent and penetrate deeper into the dermis. While UVA rays do not cause sunburns, they are known to cause premature aging and wrinkles, and have more recently been linked to skin cancer as well.

When shopping for sunscreen, be sure to choose a ‘Broad Spectrum’ sunscreen, which means that it also protects from UVA rays.

Water-resistant

If you’re just applying sunscreen for everyday use, then it probably isn’t necessarily to seek out a product that is water-resistant.

However, if you are going to be at a beach or pool, exercising or playing sports, you may want to consider something longer-lasting.

You may see a variety of different labels along the lines of water-resistant, sport, sweat-resistant, and so on, which all represent how well the SPF is able to withstand water or sweat. No matter what type you choose, be sure to reapply regularly.

Lotion, spray or stick?

Sunscreen comes in a variety of forms, including lotions, sprays and sticks. The type you choose may depend on your situation or personal preference. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re using one of them and applying it properly and consistently.

Lotions and creams typically offer the best coverage as they tend to be applied more thoroughly, and have the added benefit of hydrating the skin.

Sprays are easy to apply on-the-go, but be careful not to skimp out on coverage or breathe in the spray. Instead of spraying directly on your face, spray it onto your hands first.

Sticks are another easy option for the on-the-go, and can be a great option for smaller areas that tend to run, like under the eyes.

Sunscreen tips

Applying your sunscreen properly is just as important as choosing the right product. Here are a few tips to ensure that you stay protected this summer.

  • Be aware of any medications that may increase your sensitivity to the sun. If needed, avoid the sun or apply extra sunscreen when using such medications.
  • Apply generously. A rule of thumb is to use at least 1oz (a shot glass size) amount to cover the majority of your body.
  • Reapply every two hours, after being in the water and after sweating, regardless of the SPF.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin at least 15 minutes before going out in the sun.
  • Double check that your sunscreen isn’t expired as this can decrease its effectiveness.
  • Use sunscreen even when it’s cloudy as UV rays can penetrate clouds.

If you are looking for sunscreen options in Kelowna or have any questions about protection from the sun, the team at Lakeside Pharmacy would be happy to help. Visit the pharmacy or contact us to learn more.

Have a great summer!