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5 Things to Know Before You Go Chasing a Tan

It’s the middle of summer. It’s finally hot. You’re ditching work early, getting up with the birds, taking the long way around – whatever gets you into a body of water, or at least lying on the sand or rocks. But whether you’re jumping in and out of the lake or taking a sudden trip to the shore, you need sun protection.

Nova Scotia’s Public Health department has recognized that simply telling people to stay inside at peak sun hours and minimize direct exposure doesn’t realistically work with most lifestyles/human behaviour. The department has taken a new approach to sun safety – rather than recommend a blanket outdoor ban, it recommends you protect your skin and eyes through improved sun safety practices.

Sunscreen technique

Everyone knows sunscreen is vital to a successful summer day. But did you know the minimum SPF recommendation has doubled from 15 to 30, because Canadians do not wear enough of it? Sunscreen needs 20 minutes to be absorbed by the skin, should be reapplied every two hours and directly after swimming or sweating a lot. It should be applied before make-up, but after moisturizing.

Cover up (that skin)

You can be outside without being in direct sunlight: Bring an umbrella to the beach, or hang out under a tree or on a covered patio. While not always optimal in higher temperatures, clothes are a better barrier against the sun than sunscreen, but if you can’t bear long sleeves, at least wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Cover up (those eyes)

NS Public Health has placed a greater emphasis on eye protection, advising people to wear sunglasses at all times, including while swimming – reflective surfaces including water and sand (and snow!) can cause damage. And if it clouds over, that doesn’t mean you should take off the glasses either – UV rays are strong enough to burn on through the grey. And don’t cheap out on fashion sunglasses with opaque lenses – you need a pair with 100 percent protection.

What looks good can be deadly

Sure, that tan makes your summer whites pop, but consider your health before that garden party. Deliberate tanning practices (including tanning beds) are dangerous and a leading cause of melanoma. If you insist, check your skin regularly and see your doctor immediately if something out of the ordinary appears, or something existing – like a mole or birthmark – changes.

Watch the clock

The most dangerous time of day to be outside in summer time is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is when you should be most diligent with your sun safety practices, though this time frame is just a guideline – burns are still possible before and after these hours. Remember that heat stroke is a medical emergency.

Your skin already looks great – don’t put it in danger.

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