Tackling common misconceptions to promote sun-safe behaviour

 Sun-safe habits, such as covering up, avoiding the sun at peak times and using broad-spectrum sunscreens, can help to protect us against the risks of ultraviolet rays that are known to pose a threat to skin cells. istock.com

Sun-safe habits, such as covering up, avoiding the sun at peak times and using broad-spectrum sunscreens, can help to protect us against the risks of ultraviolet rays that are known to pose a threat to skin cells. istock.com

Long and sunny summer days tend to promise opportunities for leisure and play. Yet when it comes to sun protection, people can be too relaxed. Many only pack the sunscreen on days when they’re heading to the beach. And once they have a tan, 60 per cent say they are not as diligent about sunscreen or forgo it entirely.   

“It’s a common assumption that people think if they have a tan, they don’t need to protect themselves any longer, but this is a misconception and it isn’t the only one. Statistics show that people really are too relaxed about sun exposure,” says Aleyna Zarras, skin expert for La Roche-Posay, L’Oreal Canada.

The numbers from recent IPSOS polls shows a lack of awareness on a global scale. An alarming 38 per cent of people say they don’t use sunscreen even on sunny days. And many don’t know that one hour spent in the sun anywhere is equal to one hour of sun exposure on the beach, says Zarras. “We need to protect our skin every day, even when it is cloudy.”

Of the ultraviolet (UV) rays that reach us, five per cent are UVB, which are the primary cause of sunburns, Zarras explains. The other 95 per cent are UVA rays – and they are present throughout the day, even in the shade and behind glass, and can be reflected from a variety of surfaces.
Both wavelengths are known to pose a threat to skin cells, which is why dermatologists recommend sun-safe habits, such as covering up, avoiding the sun at peak times and using broad-spectrum sunscreens.
 

“We recommend choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 60,” says Zarras, who adds that the SPF number on sunscreen products that Canadians are familiar with measures only the protection against UVB rays – it doesn’t take UVA radiation into account. “That is why we want people to pay attention to the UVA logo, which indicates that a product meets the Health Canada standards for UVA protection.”

Sun protection is an urgent topic since skin cancer is still the most common type of cancer even though it is among the most preventable. Zarras recommends examining the skin for moles regularly since this can lead to early detection, treatment and, in most cases, positive outcomes.
La Roche-Posay’s Become a Skin Checker campaign, now in its fourth year, encourages Canadian families to follow three steps: check their moles, protect themselves and their loved ones, and play safely in the sun, says Zarras. In addition to education and public awareness campaigns, La Roche-Posay aims to boost sun protection habits by offering products for every skin type and preference.

“If people don’t feel comfortable wearing sun protection, they are less likely to make it part of their regular routine,” she explains. “That’s why we offer a range of textures, such as ultra-fluid products, which come in tinted and non-tinted versions and have a new 80-minute water resistance claim, and a dry-touch product for oily skin.

“Canadians can also choose between mineral or organic sun filters,” says Zarras. “We have options for everyone in the family. According to the Canadian Study IQVIA 2018, the La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios franchise is the number one sunscreen recommended by dermatologists in Canada.”

With a wide variety of products that fit different needs and circumstances, there really is no excuse for not making sun protection a regular habit, says Zarras. “You brush your teeth; you wash your face. Putting on sun protection should be an additional – and equally important – step in your daily routine.”

Knowledge is power, and with education, we can shift toward safer and healthier behaviours, believes Zarras. Summer should still be a good time to relax, but only after making sure adequate sun protection is in place.

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