Protecting Yourself from Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

There's no such thing as a "healthy" tan. Tanning isn't good for you.

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to UV radiation, as are fair-skinned people – but everyone should be careful. A child’s skin is much thinner than an adult's and more prone to developing skin cancer in later life. Also, a serious sunburn could require a trip to the hospital. Protecting your child or baby from UV radiation is extremely important. For more details, see Sun Safety for Children (HealthLinkBC).

Safety Tips

  • Wear protective clothing and a broad-brimmed sunhat. Sunglasses with 100% UV protection are also important.
  • Use a sunscreen and apply it liberally, at least 15 minutes before you go out in the sun.
  • Make sure your sunscreen has a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and screens out both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Reapply sunscreen after you have been swimming or perspiring a lot.
  • Sit in the shade, and avoid prolonged exposure when the sun is strongest: between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Try to keep toddlers and children out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Look for trees and other naturally shady areas for children to play. Take extra precautions to protect babies from the sun.
  • If you cannot keep your child out of the sun, make sure to protect their skin and eyes. See Sun Safety for Children (HealthLinkBC).
  • Although UV radiation is most intense during the summer, don't overlook all the "innocent" minutes throughout the year when you're outside briefly. They can add up to a lot of radiation. 
  • Keep in mind that cloudy skies do not protect you from UV radiation. The sun’s harmful rays can get through fog, haze and clouds. 
  • Remember that you can still get a lot of sun in the winter. Be especially careful when you're doing outdoor sports, such as skiing. Reflection off fresh snow nearly doubles UV radiation. 
  • Check Environment Canada's UV Index. It helps Canadians protect themselves from overexposure to UV radiation, by providing twice-daily forecasts of the amount of radiation expected for different areas of the country.
  • Do not use a tanning bed. To find out why, see Tanning Beds
  •  Note: Sunscreens are not meant to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun. They are meant to increase your protection when you have to be outside. 

Know Your Skin Type

Individual sensitivity to UV radiation varies according to the amount of pigment in the skin and the skin's ability to tan. This is described as a person's "skin type."

Skin type is often categorized according to the Fitzpatrick Skin-Typing Scale. Skin Types I and II are at the highest risk of skin cancer. Still, skin cancers do occur with darker-skinned groups, and these are often detected at a later, more dangerous stage.

Fitzpatrick Skin-Typing Scale

Skin Type Skin Color Characteristics
I White, very fair / red or blond hair / blue eyes / freckles Always burns, never tans
II White, fair / red or blond hair / blue, hazel, or green eyes Usually burns, tans with difficulty
III Cream white, fair / any eye or hair color/ very common Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans
IV Brown, typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin Rarely burns, tans with ease
V Dark brown, Mid-Eastern skin types Very rarely burns, tans very easily
VI Black Never burns, tans very easily