With temperatures, humidex and UV index off the charts, it is our patriotic duty as Canadians to complain about the weather, it’s what we do! But, good-natured grumbling aside, there are some serious potential consequences of the intense weather. Here, lets explore one such hazard of summer weather: SUNBURNS!
We know that direct sun exposure, without the proper protection, can lead to sunburns, discoloration, accelerated skin aging, eye damage and increased risk of skin cancer. In fact, we often ask patients about their history of sunburns because the number of sunburns a person experiences and how easily they tan or burn can be an indication of their level of risk for developing certain skin conditions. In addition to the potential long term risks, some immediate hazards of sunburns include infection and aggravation of some pre-existing skin conditions. For example, while there may be an initial improvement in acne after sunning, the damage caused by sun exposure will aggravate acne. Similarly, psoriasis and eczema are greatly improved by limited sun exposure but a sunburn can actually trigger flare-ups.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is particularly true when it comes to sun exposure considering the potential long term consequences and how easily they can be prevented. Environment Canada has outlined some precautions to take based on the UV index level (a measure or the strength of the sun’s rays):
UV Index Precautions
Low Minimal sun protection required for normal activity; If outside >1hr, cover up and use sunscreen; If there’s snow on the ground, wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen on your face.
3-5 Moderate Cover up and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen; Avoid direct sun exposure near midday when the sun is strongest.
High Protection required – UV damages the skin and can cause sunburn at this level; Limit sun exposure from 11- 4; Seek shade, cover up exposed skin, wear a hat and sunglasses, and apply sunscreen.
Very High Extra precaution required – unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn quickly; Avoid the sun from 11- 4; Seek shade, cover up, and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Extreme Very rare in Canada but happens in the tropics and southern U.S.; Take full precaution, Unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn in minutes; Avoid the sun from 11- 4; Cover up, and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen; White sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and increase UV exposure.
A good natural sunscreen is a must! Ideally, look for a product that is natural and chemical-free, uses only Certified Organic ingredients, blocks both UVA and UVB, is water resistant and is suitable and safe for the whole family.
If you do get a sunburn this summer, continue to the article below for some helpful tips!
Herb of the Month – Aloe vera
Summer is here and even when we try to remember to take the necessary precautions to avoid sunburn – wear sunscreen, cover up, avoid exposure at peak hours – we sometimes forget and get burnt. Enter our herb of the month: Aloe vera!
The gel extracted from the leaf of the aloe plant is great for applying on skin to sooth and treat sunburn. As a topical (applied externally to the skin), it can also be used to help treat various other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, different types of skin wounds, as well as varicose veins. This is thanks to “mucilage” in the gel, which helps to sooth and protect skin when applied.
For a quick, homemade sunburn treatment:
4 tbsp Aloe gel (you can purchase a prepared gel or pick up Aloe leaves at the market)
2 tbsp baking soda (also great to put in a bath with some oats)
¼ cup oats, ground up
½ tsp Vitamin E oil
Combine in an airtight container and apply to affected skin.
Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.