Safe Fun in the Summer Sun
Having a complexion that rivals the colour of cold oatmeal may seem more appealing when one considers the frightening possibility of skin cancer that can come with a golden glow.
According to the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, an estimated 5,000 Canadians are diagnosed with melanoma annually, and Canadians born in the 1990s are two to three times more likely to develop skin cancer than those born in the 1960s.
With these daunting statistics, it appears people have been forbidden from enjoying the summer sun, but there are ways to overcome this seasonal obstacle. By being informed and developing proper sun safety habits, having fun in the sun can once again be a possibility.
Contrary to popular belief, a tan isn’t necessarily a sign of health and vitality, according to Eveline Charles’ spa and cosmetics director, Cheryl Johns. “When skin gets too much sun, it produces more melanin, which browns the surface of the skin,” said Johns. “So a tan is a sign that skin cells have been injured by UV rays, which can turn into skin cancer.”
Johns advised tanners to be on the lookout for any signs of sun damage. “Sun damage can add up, sometimes developing into something much worse long after the colour has faded.”
To combat the adverse effects of both the long and short-wave rays of the sun (UVA and UVB, respectively), wearing sun screen with a minimum SPF level of 15 is advised.
According to dermatologist Dr. Eric Reding’s online advice, the application of SPF lotion should not be used as an excuse to languish in the sun for extended periods of time. “Excessive exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun is the single most important preventable cause of melanoma,” said Reding.
If detected early enough, melanoma is “highly curable”, according to Reding’s website. Reding advised that melanoma can be prevented by avoiding tanning beds, staying out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and by wearing SPF lotion.
While sun block and sun screen can be used as interchangeable terms, they are quite different from one another. While sun screen’s chemicals are soaked up by the skin and absorb UV rays before any damage can be done to the skin, Johns says that sun blocks contain inorganic ingredients which sit on the skin while acting as a “wall between your skin and the sun.” For broader protection, sun block may be the best bet since sun screens’ chemicals allow some UV light to be absorbed by the skin.
Those who experience sensitivities to chemicals found in many sun care products should opt for formulas containing either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which can be less irritating to sensitive skin types.
To forego the greasy feeling that often comes with being slathered with various sun blocks and screens, a worthy summertime investment may be SPF clothing. Though it may sound ridiculous, one t-shirt from the website SPFstore.com provides up to 100 hours of sun protection with an SPF level of 50. The company’s website claims that all of their SPF-infused fabrics, “Block more than 97 per cent of UVA and UVB even after two years of wear and tear.”
The SPFstore’s innovative shirts set customers back roughly $15, depending on the selected style and colour. However, customers can also find SPF-infused garments such as shorts, long-sleeved tops, and kids’ swimsuits on the company’s online store.
Those looking for cheaper ways of evading harmful rays can look to the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation’s list of alternatives for safeguarding against the terrors of UVA and UVB rays. Included on the list are donning wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses, and staying in the shade.
An easy way to remember simple and effective sun safety is to memorize the slogan of Australia’s cancer control program, SunSmart.
The slogan ‘slip, slop, slap’ refers to the act of putting on a shirt, sun screen, and a hat, respectively, and has been part of Australian pop culture since the 1980s.
The slip, slop, slap method may leave former sun worshippers as pasty as their pre-summer selves, but it’s nothing a little spray tanning won’t fix.