Health Canada wants people to protect themselves and their families from the sun.

Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays without sunscreen can cause much more than a sunburn. It can lead to sun damage (such as skin wrinkling and hardening, dark patches, precancerous skin changes) and can increase the risk of skin cancer.

There are many sunscreen products available in Canada. It is important to choose a sunscreen with the level of sun protection factor (SPF) that is right for you. The SPF tells you the level of protection that the sunscreen provides against sunburn. It also tells you the length of time that your sunscreen-protected skin can be exposed before it starts to get red.

Sunscreen safety tips:

  • Choose a high SPF. Protect your health by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. The sunscreen should also say “broad-spectrum” on the label, to screen out most of the UVA and UVB rays.
  • Sunscreens and babies. Do not put sunscreen on babies less than 6 months of age. Keep them out of the sun and heat as their skin and bodies are much more sensitive than an adult’s.
    A sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher should be applied to babies over 6 months of age.
  • Look for water resistant. Look for claims on the label that the product stays on better in water (water resistant, very water resistant).
  • Read application instructions. For best results, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Use lots of it. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen.
  • Apply it often. Apply sunscreen before heading outside and use a generous amount. Reapply 20 minutes after going outside and at least every 2 hours after that. Cover exposed areas generously, including ears, nose, the tops of feet and backs of knees. Reapply sunscreen often to get the best possible protection especially if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
  • Protect yourself. Sunscreen and insect repellents can be used safely together. Apply the sunscreen first, then the insect repellent.
  • Test for an allergic reaction. Before using any product on you or your child check for an allergic reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin. Apply it to a small patch of skin on the inner forearm for several days in a row. If the skin turns red or otherwise reacts, change products.
  • Prescription drugs and over-the-counter products. Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter products may make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Speak to a healthcare provider (such as a doctor, pharmacist, or nurse) if you have any questions about which sunscreen is appropriate for you.