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I scream, you scream, we all scream for sunscreen!

It’s National Sun Awareness Week and Melanoma Awareness Month. Here's what you need to know about managing the very serious effects of UV exposure

Visit shopartmed.ca for 15% off all sun protection products


The Canadian Dermatology Association regularly surveys Canadians about sun exposure. The most recent survey in 2019 revealed a disturbing trend. Compared to 2018 Canadians were 4% less concerned about damaging UV radiation, 4% more concerned about sunscreen safety, 6% less likely to look for SPF in skincare products and avoid midday sun and 5% less likely to use sunscreen year-round.

Canadians have a love, love, less hate relationship with the sun. The French poet Arthur Rimbaud said, “The Sun, the hearth of affection and life, pours burning love on the delighted earth.” As Canadians we live in a cold climate and spend much of the year indoors. Consequently, when the summer arrives, we love to spend time in the sun.  As Rimbaud says, it is delightful and lovely but also burns.

The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation of various spectrums. There is 500 times more UVA than UVB rays in sunlight. UVA penetrates deeply and causes visible aging while UVB superficially burns. Both cause DNA damage and skin cancers. While fairer skin is damaged more easily, individuals of all skin tones are subject to UV’s harmful effects.  

What is the damage? UV exposure leads to accelerated aging – wrinkles, thinning skin, age spots or leathery skin.  Excess UV increases the risk of skin cancer and development of moles, skin tags, ‘liver spots’ and keratoses.  90% of skin cancer is caused by UV sun exposure. Eye injury and cataracts can occur – the cornea can burn just like the skin leading to blurred vision.  UV can even suppress the immune system.  

The key to managing the very serious effects of UV is summed up in two words: prevent and protect.  

Prevention and protection come in the form of 4 simple strategies. Use sunscreen. Plan your exposure. Take breaks. Cover up.

Sunscreen is a big topic unto itself. Bottom line – the best sunscreen is the one you’re willing to wear. That said, look for full UVA and UVB protection and a minimum of SPF 30. Chemical sunscreen is absorbed into skin which may cause irritation or allergy for some.  Mineral sunblock sits on the skin surface and is well tolerated but read labels to assure full UVA/UVB protection. Combination products are common. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen. One way to be sure you are adequately covered is to apply, then apply once more.  

Sunscreens are only partially effective at protecting against free radicals that form from UV exposure. Pre-treat high exposure areas like face, neck, chest, and hands with a pharmaceutical grade Vitamin C antioxidant serum to enhance protection while getting an anti-aging benefit to boot (view some of our favourite serums here). 

Plan your exposure and avoid direct sun between 10am and 3pm. This is especially true for infants and children because burns in childhood are associated with skin cancer later in life.

Take breaks from direct sun exposure. Go inside, or into a shady area or use an umbrella.

Wear clothing and wide-brimmed hats to protect your skin from UV rays.  Swim shirts are a great idea for water-based activities especially for babies and kids.  Be sure to wear sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection.  Look for sunglasses rated UV400 or higher.

And if you want that summer glow? Fake it! Use sunless self-tanners, tinted lotions, sprays and makeup. Get a spray tan from a professional salon. But remember, your fake tan won’t protect you from UV, you’ll still need to use sunscreen. Never use tanning beds as they expose you to intense UVA and UVB radiation.

Consider skin cancer screening as well. Mole-mapping is a type of screening where spots and moles are evaluated with a special instrument called a dermascope to determine if biopsy is indicated.  Year over year tracking photography monitors changes. Like mammography, or colon-cancer screening, mole-mapping is an excellent way to prevent or catch skin cancers early. 

Not sure which sunscreen to purchase? Pharmaceutical grade for the face, neck, and chest is best. For the body, broad spectrum UVA/UVB mineral sunblock is recommended for water sports or when sweating is likely.  Chemical sunscreen sprays will do the job as long as you don’t get wet or excessively sweaty.  100% mineral-based sunblocks are safest for infants and young children. Use twice as much as you think you need.

For further information on pharmaceutical grade Canadian made sunscreens, you can check out this chart from Dr. Peirson that categorizes several different sunscreens here.

In conjunction with Sun Awareness Week and Melanoma Awareness Month, ArtMed has put all sun protection products 15% OFF on shopartmed.ca. You can also put in orders for curtsied pick up by emailing them at info@artmed.ca

Have fun in the sun but don’t forget the sunscreen everyone!