While it might still be winter (with spring not set to arrive for another two weeks), Vancouver is set to get its first taste of warm weather this weekend when temperatures are expected to hit anywhere from 14 to 18 degrees Celsius (57 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit) across parts of the Lower Mainland this weekend. That means many British Columbians will take advantage of the sunshine by spending the majority of their time outdoors. However, don’t let the fact that it’s still winter fool you, because despite that, you will need to take the same precautions you normally would during spring and summer to keep yourself protected from the sun – and yes, that even means wearing sunscreen.
While you might think it’s okay to ditch the SPF during the winter season, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, says people should really think twice before doing so. Why? Because it doesn’t take much to get a sunburn. In fact, Dr. Ghahary says people should actually consider wearing a sunscreen every day of the year, even if it’s a low SPF. Despite the season, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can still damage your skin, and one should always pay close attention to their local weather reports so they’re aware of the UV index. The UV index is used to inform the general public of the level of UV exposure that they should expect on a given day. Depending on the time of day, the UV level can rise or fall. By knowing the UV index, you’ll be able to plan your outdoor activities more appropriately and therefore lower your risk of developing any adverse health effects – such as sunburn (as mentioned), skin cancer, cataracts, and heat stroke.
In Canada, the UV index is separated into 5 different categories, and they are as follows:
• Low (0 to 2)
• Moderate (3 to 5)
• High (6 to 7)
• Very High (8 to 10)
• Extreme (11+)
According to Environment Canada, this weekend’s UV index may reach a 3, which is considered moderate, albeit on the lower side of the spectrum. However, just because the UV index is at a moderate or lower level, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods in terms of doing your body or skin damage as a result of sun exposure. Damage can happen rather quickly, which is why healthcare professionals like Dr. Ali Ghahary cannot stress enough the importance of wearing sunscreen and doing all you can do to keep yourself protected. If you know you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, using an SPF isn’t the only thing you should do. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends wearing a large brimmed hat and sunglasses, as well as finding shade from time to time to help your body cool off.
Paying attention to the UV index is also important in determining the level of SPF you need to wear. An SPF 15, for example, blocks approximately 93% of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 or higher blocks up to 97% of UVB radiation, and is recommended for extended or intense exposure to the sun.