“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it,” said the film director Baz Luhrmann in 1997.
“The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists. Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now.” This was the opening credo in his five-minute spoken word piece “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” a high school valedictory address and novelty hit.
This tip is more prescient than ever, as the Earth continues to heat up, melt and set unsettling records.
Last month, the Canadian Cancer Society released its first update to sun safety guides in 20 years. “Rates of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer,” said the Society, “continue to rise in Canada even though it is one of the most preventable cancers.”
Though the height of summer puts sun safety at the top of our to-do lists, making sure you’re adequately protected is important all year round. Before heading out for the day, make sure you check the UV Index. Anything above 3 means you need to take extra care. (And as far as tanning beds are concerned? Don’t use them.)
Here are three keys to ensuring your beach day (or your autumn hike or day of mid-winter skiing) is sun-safe.
Listen to Baz, and to doctors: It’s recommended you use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, offers protection against both ultraviolet A and B rays (AKA broad spectrum). Make sure it’s water-resistant if you’ll be swimming. (Don’t forget to look for these factors in lip balm too.)
Your application process is key to your protection: Apply generously (three tablespoons for the average adult!) and don’t forget vulnerable spots like ears, behind the knees and the tops of your feet. Apply before makeup and/or bug spray. Reapply if you sweat or swim it off.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s metric for shade is simple: If your shadow is shorter than you are, you need shade. (Peak cover-up time is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Take an umbrella or portable shelter to the beach, or if you don’t have an umbrella, find shade under a tree or any structure that provides sufficient coverage to your whole body. Wear a hat, but not your fedora or Blue Jays cap – they aren’t wide enough. There’s a reason beach hats are big and floppy – they need to cover your face, neck, ears and head. It can be tough to convince anyone to cover up on a hot summer’s day, but clothing is a better choice than sunscreen. (And you can even buy UV-protective clothing – just add it into your summer swimwear budget. Check out rash guards for active ocean sports.) Babies under a year old should not be in direct sunlight at all, or out in extreme heat.
Sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays. Aviators and Wayfarers never go out of style – just make sure the sticker says 100 per cent UV protection.
Your turn: How do you enjoy the sun without exposing yourself to its harmful effects? Share your tips in the comments section below.