More than 4 weeks of self-isolation for many of us combined with a wave of great weather have led us out the front door. Increased sun exposure naturally leads to the topic of sun safety. Sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer and speeds the aging of our skin due to the effects of ultraviolet light on our skin. Ultraviolet light has two types of harmful rays
- UVA(aging) rays can prematurely age your face causing wrinkles and age spots. These rays can pass through window glass.
- UVB(burn) rays are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.
Some of the aspects of sun safety are quite simple.
- Consider the use of a wide brim hat with a 4 inch brim and sunglasses while you are outside. Wear lightweight long sleeved shirt, pants or skirt when possible.
- Seek shade between 10 a.m and 2 p.m. when the sun is strongest.
- Use extra caution near water, sand and snow as reflection increases the risk of skin damage.
- Avoid the use of tanning beds. True Balance carries the Loving Tan line of self tanners if you wish to look like you spent all summer at the beach, but kept your personal safety in mind.
Sunlight and Vitamin D are strongly linked, but not in a good way. Chronic sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. I do not recommend sunbathing to increase Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D should be increased with a healthy diet and supplementation. Over the last 15 years we have found most people in Edmonton area require 4000 IU of this vitamin daily to have optimal levels, which are 120 mmol/l. I personally take 6000 IU per day based on blood testing(that is no longer available through Alberta Health)! Articles on the health benefits of optimal Vitamin D levels continue to be published every month. Good research suggests optimal levels reduce the risk of many cancers by 70%. There are many other good health effects that suggest Vitamin D should be taken year round.
Sunscreen use has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer. 20% of Canadians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime regardless of skin color. Sunscreens should meet minimum standards to be recommended which include
- Must provide UVA and UVB protection
- SPF 30 or more
- Water resistant
Sunscreens that meet these criteria protect you from sunburn, early skin aging and skin cancer. An SPF of 30 blocks 97% of the UVB rays that cause sunburn. Use sunscreens when you will be outside, including cloudy days, which still have up to 80% of the damaging UV rays of a sunny day. Most people only use 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. Adults need 1 ounce(shot glass) to cover their entire body. Ideally apply 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or exercise. Higher SPF sunscreens do not last longer on the skin.
The best sunscreen is the one you will actually use! Creams are best for the face and can be combined with moisturizers and cosmetics. Physical sunscreens physically block UV rays like a shield but may leave a white residue. Chemical sunscreen work like a sponge to absorb UV rays and leave no residue. True Balance carries 2 different sunscreens:
- Vivier SPF 30 is a water based chemical sunscreen which is lightweight and sheer.
- Image SPF 30 is a mineral/physical sunscreen with a strong anti-oxidant base.
Both of these products are formulated to moisturize and are compatible for use under makeup. The American Academy of Dermatology feels that safety issues regarding the use of chemical sunscreens have been overblown. A number of chemical sunscreens are being required to produce more safety data by the FDA, but this does not mean they are unsafe. This association of dermatologists feel the advantages of chemical sunscreen use far outweighs and potential problems. All sunscreens sold by True Balance are Health Canada approved.
If you have any questions about what you can do to protect yourself from sunburn, early skin aging and skin cancer, please reach out to our team of professionals by phone or text message.
Dr. Ron Brown