Figuring out sunscreen protection

Figuring out sunscreen protection

Shelagh McNally

A bit of sunshine is good for you. Our bodies are built to generate Vitamin D when basking in the sun. Too much of a good thing can be dangerous! Particularly since sunburns increase your risk of skin cancer.

Figuring out sunscreen -

To get the best protection from your sunscreen, it’s important to understand how SPF works. No matter what the number, all sunscreens work for two hours’ time and then to be re-applied. The SPF number is actually the amount of sun exposure blocked so a higher number doesn’t mean longer time in the sun with no sunscreen.

SPF rating 
% rays blocked
10 SPF
30 SPF
50 SPF
70 SPF
 Another mistake is too little, too late. It takes 20 minutes for skin to absorb sunscreen so apply it before you head out. Sunscreen lasts for two hours so needs to be re-applied especially if you are sweating or swimming. Use one teaspoon per body section. (The typical cap is about a teaspoon). So one teaspoon for the face and neck, one for the back and so on. Don’t forget classically overlooked areas: ears, nose, lips, feet, toes and scalp (especially if you’re hair challenged on top!). 

Organic brands and infant sunscreen usually avoid oxybenzone or avobenzone in favour of the healthier titanium dioxide (TiO(2) or zinc oxide (ZnO). These are minerals that coat the skin with a protective barrier rather than being absorbed and they do leave a tell-tale white coating (think lifeguard nose).

Keep in mind that when it comes to fun in the sun there isn’t one product offering 100% protection. If you are fair skinned the Canadian Cancer Society recommends staying out of the sun during peak hours between 11 AM to 4 PM. Covering up and finding shade is still your best protection. Got a day in the sun planned? Consult Environment Canada’s UV Index. A UV rating of eight or above means sunscreen is needed.

Learn more about the effectiveness of your brand with the Environmental Working Group’s annual sunscreen guide.

Did you know your sunscreen can damage our coral reefs? Read more 


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