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As the days get longer, hotter and brighter, the chance of getting a sunburn increases tremendously. There are three classifications of sunburns: first, second and third degree. A first degree sunburn is the most common, with its well known symptoms including hot, red, and sometimes blistered skin.
Sunburns are caused by radiation from the sun, which comes in two types: UVA and UVB. UVA is present year-round, whereas UVB is more commonly present during the summer months. UVB rays penetrate the first layer of skin, while UVA rays have the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin and can also penetrate through clothing and windows.
Here are some preventative tips to keep you from looking like a lobster!
Limit outdoor time during peak hours when the rays are strongest (10am to 2pm).
Wear protective clothing and accessories such as a hat, sunglasses (protecting against UVA and UVB rays), and loose light-coloured clothing.
Apply sunscreen when you or your child are going out in the sun, making sure to cover all areas of exposed skin. Be sure to cover skin with a thick and even layer, and re-apply every few hours, especially when your child has been swimming.
Sunscreens come in a variety of forms, and can be composed of many ingredients, making it quite difficult to choose the best sunscreen for your child. When choosing a sunscreen, here are some things to keep in mind:
SPF stands for sun protection factor, and provides a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB rays. Oftentimes, a high SPF offers a false sense of security as many people believe they can remain in the sun longer than they are actually protected for. The Environmental Working Group offers the example of 100 SPF sunscreen. While many may think they can now be out in the sun 100 times longer, the actual difference in protection from an SPF of 50 to that of 100 is 1%. What?? One percent?! Well that is just confusing! But it's true. When applied appropriately, an SPF of 50 will be overall just as protective as the higher ratings. Why would you want to make this choice? Well, the higher the SPF, the more chemicals required in that batch of sunscreen. These chemicals may have increased health risks for some people compared to the lower SPF valued sunscreens.
Now recall that we said SPF protects against UVB rays. UVA rays also have the ability to penetrate the skin, and despite a higher SPF, a sunscreen may not have the ability to protect the skin from this type of radiation. UVA rays are responsible for free radical damage to the skin, increasing our risk of melanoma, whereas UVB rays are associated with what we typically know as sun damage: the dreaded sunburn. Higher SPF, with their false sense of greater protection, may result in people spending too much time in the sun and exposing themselves to greater damage overall.
According to the Environmental Working Group, sunscreens whose SPF values range from 30-50 provide as good protection as those with higher SPF value. They even go so far to state that their belief is that SPF sunscreen higher than 50 should not be sold to consumers, so that instructions on appropriate use and protection are clear.
Sunscreens are available in two forms - mineral or non-mineral. Generally, mineral sunscreens composed of zinc-oxide or titanium dioxide are stable in the sunlight and provide a balance of both UVA and UVB protection. Minerals remain on top of the skin unlike non-mineral sunscreens which may penetrate the skin and disrupt hormones. If mineral sunscreens are difficult to source, non-mineral sunscreens containing Tinosorb S, Tinosorb M, Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL also provide sun-stability and appear to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
When using a lotion, there is the opportunity to provide a thick and even coating of sunscreen on the skin. Sunscreen sprays do not provide a thick and even coating, and also pose an inhalation risk. We suggest picking the lotions!
Sometimes no matter how much protection we use, burns occur. Here are a few ways to help treat a first-degree sunburn:
If your child’s skin becomes severely blistered or swollen due to a sunburn, and experiences symptoms such as fever, chills, or nausea, seek medical attention right away.
For a much greater overview of all things sunscreen from the Environmetnal Working Group, check out their 2016 Sunscreen Guide.
Material on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice. Always seek professional medical consultation by a licensed medical or naturopathic physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition. Please seek medical attention immediately if ever concerned.