Canadians love the sun, but sometimes we forget to protect ourselves from the damage it can cause. Read on to learn about the importance of sun protection.
You always hear that getting out into the sun is healthy and good for us. This is true. The sun helps us sleep well and on a regular basis. It also helps our bodies make Vitamin D – an important vitamin for healthy bones and our mental health. However, too much exposure to the sun can be more damaging than beneficial. Here we explain the effects of the sun on our skin and the importance of sun protection.
How Does Skin React to Sun Exposure?
To better understand how the sun damages our skin, we need to understand how our skin reacts to sun exposure. The upper most layer of our skin contains our skin’s melanin. Besides determining the colour of our natural skin (the more you have, the darker your skin is), melanin is also there for protection. This is why humans tan. When we are exposed to the sun, our top layer of skin produces more melanin to protect the deeper layers.
Our top layer of skin also has a constant cell repair process working. When you are exposed to the sun, the skin cells start to regenerate and are eventually replaced. You can see this process in action when you burn and then your skin peels off to reveal new, normal looking skin underneath. Yet even with this process long-term damage can remain.
How Does Sun Exposure Damage Your Skin?
There are 2 types of UV rays produced by the sun: UVA and UVB rays. Both of these contribute to skin damage. Here’s how:
- UVB rays mostly effect our upper layers of skin. Exposure to these rays leads to our skin aging at a more rapid pace by breaking down the connective tissues. An estimated 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun, and the older you get the harder it is for your skin to repair itself from this type of damage.
- UVA rays are the ones that go deep into your skin. UVA rays penetrating these lower layers of the skin can cause damage to genetic tissue, which can lead to melanoma – aka. skin cancer. In Canada 1 in 46 men and 1 in 56 women are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetimes, and having just 5 sunburns or more can double your risk!
As you can see, both UVA and UVB rays cause significant damage to our skin. Still, there is more. Sun exposure is cumulative over our lifetime. Meaning all the times we are exposed to the sun stack on top of each other and it does not reset. Approximately 23% of our lifetime exposure happens by the time we are 18, with us reaching 74% between the ages of 41 and 59. This is why it’s important to start protecting our skin from an early age and to keep protecting it throughout our whole lives.
How Can I Protect My Skin from Sun Damage?
Now that we have freaked you out about how damaging the sun can be, you may be wondering how you will ever enjoy a sunny day again. Don’t fret! There are many ways you can protect your skin from UVA and UVA rays.
Sunscreen is the obvious choice for sun protection, but how do you know which SPF level to use? That depends on how long you plan to be in the sun. A general rule you can use is this: SPF 15 is meant to make it so that it takes 15 times longer for you to get a sunburn than if you weren’t wearing any. SPF 30 is meant to take 30 times as long, and so on. Whatever level of sunscreen you chose, it should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure, to insure it’s fully absorbed into your skin, and then should be re-applied every 2 hours – yes, even on cloudy days!
- GM Collin SPF 25 Urban Protection Veil
- A great option for every day sun protection. 100% mineral based protection that creates a lightweight and invisible shield. It contains Argan Oil for nourishment, Vitamin E for antioxidant protection, and Vitamin C for brightening.
- GM Collin SPF 50 High Protection Veil
- If you plan to be out in the sun for a long time, this is the best option. It has no greasy/oily feel. It also has 100% mineral protection and contains natural oils, like coconut and sesame, to hydrate skin.
Cover Your Skin
Another option to protect your skin is to cover it with clothing. This is easier in the winter when we are trying to keep warm, but in the summer it can be difficult not to melt with our skin covered. To avoid melting, you can always chose a light coloured, natural fibre. Natural fibres like cotton, linen, and bamboo are moisture wicking and temperature regulating. Or better yet, you can invest in clothing that is built to protect you and keep you cool! Clothing is usually labeled when it has built in cooling and/or sun protection.
- IBKÜL Long Sleeve Mockneck Top
- IBKÜL is not just for playing golf. They’re a great choice whenever you find yourself out in the sun. Their fabric is UPF 50+ protected so you don’t even have to apply sunscreen underneath. Plus, their IceFil technology fabric can reduce your body temperature by 5 degrees!
Limit Your Sun Exposure
The easier of the options is to limit the time you spend in the sun, especially between the hours of 10AM and 2PM. If you’re worried about not getting enough Vitamin D, know that spending just 10-15 minutes in the sun will get you all the Vitamin D you need for the day. Alternatively, you can buy supplements. That being said, staying away from the sun isn’t in most Canadians nature, so maybe it is best to just apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing.