Sun safety

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Learn about choosing the correct sunscreen, wearing proper clothing and drinking enough fluids to stay safe in the sun.

Key points

  • High temperatures and humidity can cause you to sweat more and lose extra water. Drinking more fluid when you are out in the sun can help prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion.
  • Too much sun exposure can cause sunburns and long-term skin damage, including early aging of the skin and cancer.
  • It is important to protect your skin from the sun. This can include applying sunscreens, wearing sun-protective clothing and avoiding the sun completely.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses with broad spectrum ultraviolet (UV) ray protection when you are outside.

There are three main things to think about when you will be out in the sun:

  1. Staying hydrated
  2. Protecting your skin
  3. Protecting your eyes

Staying hydrated

Summertime heat can cause you to lose extra fluid through your skin by sweating. High humidity makes people more likely to sweat.

To make up for the extra fluid you lose when you are hot, try to drink at least two cups (500 mL) of fluid on days when you're out in the sun.

  • Extra fluids stop you from getting dehydrated.
  • Having enough fluids means you are less likely to suffer from heat exhaustion.

Signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration

  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach or leg cramps
  • Cool, moist skin

Protecting your skin

Too much sun exposure can cause severe sunburns, including blisters, illness, shivering and fever. In the long term, too much sun exposure can also cause early aging of the skin and even skin cancer.

It is important to protect your skin from the sun. This can include applying sunscreens, wearing sun-protective clothing and avoiding the sun completely.

General tips

  • When you can, avoid going out in the sun between 11am and 3pm. This is when the sun's rays are at their strongest. Try to do outdoor activities earlier or later in the day.
  • The sun's rays can still reach you on cloudy days.
  • Check the daily UV index. This tells you how quickly unprotected skin will burn. Anything greater than three means you will need to use sun protection.
  • Even people with deeply pigmented (dark) skin require maximum sun protection.
  • Remember that water, sand and snow strengthen and reflect the sun’s rays.
  • Avoid sunbathing. Look for areas that are shaded or covered instead of sitting in the direct sun.
  • Never use tanning beds or lamps. These give off two to five times more UVA radiation than natural sunlight.


Sunscreens that you can use on the skin:

  • protect against the sun's harmful rays (UV rays)
  • protect against sunburn
  • help prevent sun-related skin changes such as wrinkles, pigment (skin colour) changes and skin cancer

Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. These are the damaging components of sunlight. Sun protection factor (SPF) refers to the degree of protection from UVB rays. It does not include protection against UVA rays.

Chemicals that protect the skin against UVA include:

  • oxybenzone
  • avobenzone
  • ecamsule

Sunscreens that contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide protect against both UVA and UVB.

Choosing and using sunscreen

Follow these steps when choosing and using sunscreen:

  • Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally and often to all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, especially the face and neck.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin about 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. It needs time to sink into your skin so that it works properly.
  • Re-apply sunscreen every two to three hours, especially if you have been sweating from doing outdoor activities or your skin has become wet, for example from swimming (even if your sunscreen is waterproof).
  • Wear lip balm with sunscreen SPF 30 or higher. Re-apply it every two hours, if possible (or sooner if you lick your lips a lot), and after eating.
  • Check the expiry date on your sunscreen products regularly. Expired products will not protect you properly.

Follow these recommendations if you will be wearing insect repellent (bug spray) and sunscreen:

  • If you need to wear insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first. To give the sunscreen enough time to sink into your skin, wait 20 minutes before applying the repellent.
  • DEET (the active chemical in insect repellent) makes sunscreen less effective. This means you will have to re-apply the sunscreen more often than usual.
  • Avoid combination sunscreen/insect repellent products. You will need to apply sunscreen every two hours, but there is no need to apply DEET this often.

When you are outside, along with your sunscreen, wear:

  • a hat with a wide brim (7.5 cm or 3 inches wide)
  • loose, lightweight clothes that cover as much of the body as possible

Medications and sun exposure

Certain medications may cause skin to become more sensitive to sunlight. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Protecting your eyes

It is important to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can burn the front of the eye, similar to sunburn on the skin, and, of course, burn the skin around your eyes, including your eye lids. Over a longer time, unprotected eyes can develop cataracts (clouding of the lens), permanent vision loss and skin cancers on eyelids and the surrounding areas. When you are outside, wear sunglasses with broad spectrum ultraviolet (UV) ray protection (99–100% UVA and UVB protection).​

Last updated: March 23rd 2023