Put on your sunscreen!

Jul 2, 2019

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

A crow is pecking at the lawn looking for a snack. Sheldon the dog is snoring on the chair beside me. After wrapping himself around the clothesline which made me have to put down my coffee and untangle him, he is now relaxed. It is early, but the sun has been up for a while. Summer mornings in the Parkland are wonderful. What are you going to do with yours?

Whatever you do, this often-heard phrase bears repeating. Put on sunscreen! There have also been some interesting questions about sunscreen that have come up in the pharmacy.

In the U.S., the state of Hawaii has decided to ban oxybenzone and octinoxate starting in 2021. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are common ingredients in many chemical sunscreens. In Hawaii, they are concerned that these ingredients are linked to damaging or bleaching coral and altering sex hormones of ocean wildlife. But this is controversial. Not all the experts agree oxybenzone and octinoxate harm sea life.

I might be stating the obvious, but aside from Shark Week on TV, there isn't any coral or ocean life in Dauphin. There has been some freshwater experts who think oxybenzone might affect the hormones in fresh water fish, but again it seems to still be up for debate. More importantly, Health Canada says oxybenzone and octinoxate are safe for people to use. Also remember that daily sunscreen use reduces the risk of skin cancer

There are alternatives to chemical sunscreens. They are called physical sunscreens. They usually have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in them. Physical sunscreens haven't been linked to coral bleaching or changing the sex hormones of sea life. However, some people have expressed concerns about nanoparticles. Nanoparticles just mean the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles are really, really small. This makes the physical sunscreen easier to apply. However, some people are concerned that the nanoparticles are so small that they get absorbed through the skin and get into the rest of the body. However, the available evidence says that doesn't happen. The nanoparticles in sunscreen just stay on the skin.

The important part is use sunscreen. Sunscreens should be applied liberally 15 minutes before sun exposure. That gives the sunscreen ingredients time to bond to the skin. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours while you are in the sun. Use a sunscreen labelled "broad spectrum" to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Sun Protection Factor or SPF works like this: SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 about 97%, and SPF 50 about 98%. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Sunscreen shouldn't be your only defense used to prevent skin cancer. Here are some practical suggestions.

  • Avoid the sun when it is most intense. This is generally between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm.
  • Seek the shade when you are outside for a long period of time
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim and long-sleeved shirt.

The sun has gone behind a cloud, but it is still warm out. I'm trying to decide if I have time for another cup of coffee. Sheldon rolled over. He is in no rush to go anywhere. More coffee sounds good. Summer in the Parkland is short but beautiful. Put on some sunscreen and go out and enjoy it.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

Canadian Dermatology Association- Sun Screen FAQ - http://dermatology.ca/public-patients/sun-protection/sunscreen-faq/


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