Sacha DeVoretz (author) enjoying the outdoors with sunscreen for top protection!

I used to do triathlons in my 20’s and loved to do long bike rides. I was racing in Alberta in a half Ironman race and was on my bike (in a bathing suit) for almost 4 hours.

With very little shade, no sun protection and sweat pouring from me, I got one of the worst sunburns of my life. After the race, I was elated to finish but almost immediately felt ill from the sun exposure and over the next few days, my burn turned to sores and then into long term skin damage.

I was young and felt like nothing could harm me. But now, after having a mole removed and following this, a serious discussion with my doctor on skin care and the risks, I am much more careful with how I care for my skin in the sun.

Recently, I was fortunate to speak with Ed Rushton, Product Manager for Garnier Ombrelle. Ed shared with me the best steps that any person can take to protect your skin from the sun this summer.

Ed shared these tips and the latest updates about sunscreen protection in Canada.

What have been the recent changes in sunscreen protection?

There are two major changes in Canadian sun protection taking effect this summer. They’re part of a new Health Canada legislation that passed late last year. These changes are going to start happening this summer and will apply to new products. However, you may still see some products in the store, like last year’s stock in example, that aren’t following these rules.

The first major change is the UVA circle, which is the new seal of protection. This is possibly the most important piece of news in sun protection.

UVB rays cause sun burns and represent 10% of the harmful UV rays which come from the sun. Meanwhile, UVA rays cause skin cancer and aging, and represent 90% of the harmful UV rays that come from the sun. SPF is only a measure of UVB protection and doesn’t imply anything about UVA at all.

Since SPF is only referring to protection from UVB rays causing sunburns, Health Canada wanted a way to let people know how well sunscreens on the market can protect from UVA rays.

What to look for: Sunscreens that meet health Canada’s minimum standard of UVA protection will be allowed to display a new logo on their packaging. It looks like the image below. Canadians need to look for the circle.

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The second major change is the new limit on SPF.

While there’s a significant difference between SPF levels of SPF 30 and SPF 60, once you
go above SPF 60, there’s a minimal difference in the level of protection that you’re getting.

Reason for the change: Health Canada wants to stop the misconceptions that lead to under-use of sunscreens with excessively high SPF. For example a common misconception is the idea that “SPF 100 is 100% protection from the sun”. It’s not, in facet no sunscreen is truly 100% protection but once you’re at SPF 50, you’re about as close as you’ll get. This misconception causes people to under-apply thinking they’re more protected than they are. Or perhaps worse, not bother to re-apply.

What to look for: From now on the new cap on SPF will be 50. If a sunscreen has a higher SPF value than that it will be labelled as SPF 50+. This should keep things safe and easy to understand for Canadians.

Who should be using sunscreen?

Everyone should be using sunscreen, but especially children as their skin is more fragile and susceptible to sun damage. More importantly, if you get a serious sun burn before the age of 16, your changes of suffering from skin cancer later in life increase by as much as 10x.

If you have been using self tanner are you safe from the sun?

Although a self-tanner is a much safer alternative than actually tanning, it doesn’t protect you from sun damages like sunscreen protection would.

How to get the most out of your sunscreen protection?

Ensure that you’re applying 30mL (which is the equivalent of the size of a golf ball) for your whole body when you’re out in the sun.

Ensure you apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. It takes about this long to bind to your skin. However, if you use a mineral sunscreen, it can be applied right before you go out under the sun and you won’t need to wait 30 minutes.

Sunscreen only lasts for 2 hours. Make sure you re-apply if you’re going to be out in the sun longer. Keep in mind that it takes 30 minutes for your sunscreen before it starts working, so that implies to re-apply every 1.5 hours to be safe.

Any other tips?

Even if you’re using waterproof sunscreen, make sure you re-apply after you towel off.

I will be using these tips to keep my skin safe and happy this summer. Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to enjoy life to the fullest. Let’s have the very best 2015!

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