When you’re checking the daily weather forecast, make sure you also take notice of the UV index – issued daily by Environment Canada. Knowing the UVR maximum for the day will help you plan how much sun protection is required. The higher the UV rating, the more careful you have to be when outside in the sun.
Shade – when combined with effective sunscreen and clothing choices – provides important protection from the sun especially when the sun’s rays are most intense between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., depending on the time of year and location, and when the UV index is 3 or greater. On their own, hats, clothing and sunscreen are not 100% effective at preventing UVR exposure. You can also take time for periodic “shade breaks” when enjoying yourself outdoors.
Look for the following:
- Permanent structures (inside or buildings that cast a broad shadow)
- Temporary structures (large sun umbrellas or tents)
- Trees with wide spreading branches and thick leaves
Good-quality shade includes dense vegetation and covered structures that offer shade from the side, and not just overhead, to protect against scattered UVR. 12-14 As a general guide, wider and denser sources of shade provide increased SPF.13 Cloth sources of shade, such as canopies and umbrellas, should have tightly woven fabric, and additional protection (clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen) is recommended under shade to protect against scattered UVR, especially on high UV Index days.14
Sunscreen should be used on exposed skin not covered by clothing or accessories. Consider using sunscreen for the lips (e.g., sunscreen lip balm), as well.
- Use a generous amount of sunscreen 15 (e.g., the average adult requires approximately two to three tablespoons of lotion-formulated sunscreen to cover the whole body, and a teaspoon to cover the face and neck).
- Reapply after swimming, strenuous exercise or toweling off.16
- Use sunscreen that says on the label:
- "Broad spectrum"
- "SPF 30" or higher
- "Water resistant"
- Sunscreen comes in a variety of formulations. Find one that suits you best and apply it properly with thorough coverage. Sunscreen formulations that you find easier to apply thoroughly will be more effective.
For the best protection, sunglasses should fit closely and wrap around the face. Sunglasses should reflect or filter out 99 to 100% of UVR light. Many healthcare benefits cover the cost of prescription eyewear, including prescription sunglasses.
- The best UV protection is offered by close-fitting wraparound sunglasses.17
- Look for sunglasses or prescription lenses with full UVA and UVB protection. Examples of appropriate labels are "UV400" or "100% UV protection.”
- Note that contact lenses, even those with UV protection, do not provide full coverage for the eye and the skin around the eye.
A range of clothing choices should be a component of comprehensive sun safety to ensure the best possible protection against harmful UVR.
- Hats should shade the head, face, ears and back of the neck with a wide brim.18
- In general, clothing provides better protection than sunscreen.19,20
- Tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing is recommended.21,22