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This summer, keep sun protection in mind while you’re having fun in the sun

June 6, 2012

By Sarah Folk

The summer is a time for relaxation; however sun burns and rashes will leave you feeling anything but relaxed. As the temperature rises, your concern for sun safety should rise with it.  Whether you’re going on vacation or staying at home this summer, you should always be aware of the dangers of the sun and how to best protect your skin.

With constant environmental changes, protecting yourself against sun burns, heat rashes and other common summer skin issues is more important than ever. And it’s not just the sun that you have to worry about. Environmental triggers such as grass, sand and sweat can cause reactions that may worsen eczema and rashes.

Dr. Vince Bertucci, a dermatologist with the Ricky Kanee Schachter Dermatology Centre at Women’s College Hospital, explains the importance of sun protection and offers tips and advice on safe skin practices during the summer.

Having fun in the sun

As the summer months approach, it’s hard to resist spending time in the sun. Although it’s tempting to stay outside all day soaking up the vitamin D or working in your garden, Dr. Bertucci warns us about the effects of significant sun exposure after spending the winter indoors.

“It is not uncommon to see people who experience reactions during their first significant sun exposure of the season,” explains Dr. Bertucci. “This is called polymorphous light eruption, and is a rash that occurs within hours to days of initial sun exposure.” The rash typically lasts a few days or even a week, and may be very itchy and uncomfortable. It often occurs annually at the beginning of each summer, and goes away with treatment.

Summer heat and humidity is frequently the culprit in heat rash, also known as miliaria. Miliaria consists of tiny pink to clear bumps, often on the face, neck and back, that develop when sweat is trapped in the skin. Often times all that’s needed is a change of clothing or makeup. Dr. Bertucci recommends wearing cotton undergarments to absorb sweat and a water-based foundation.

Dr. Bertucci suggests the following three tips for optimal sun protection:

   1.       Chose your time wisely

  • Choose a time to do your activities when there is less intense sun exposure. This is usually before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m.                              

   2.       Look for shade

  • Whether you’re at the pool or the park, choosing a spot in the shade will help protect your skin from direct sun rays.

   3.       Choose clothing that will protect you

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves to cover as much skin as possible.
  • Tightly woven clothing and sunscreen will help protect your skin against harmful UV rays.

Choosing a sunscreen

When purchasing a sunscreen, Dr. Bertucci recommends choosing one with an SPF of 30 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. This is sometimes referred to as a broad spectrum sunscreen. If you’re planning on swimming, he suggests that you look for a “water-resistant” sunscreen. However, he cautions that even these sunscreens may be rubbed off in the water or with a towel.

“Sunscreen effects typically last approximately two hours,” says Dr. Bertucci, “and should thus be reapplied regularly throughout the day.” This is especially important for certain activities such as boating or swimming, which increase sun exposure as the sunlight reflects off the water. Using a towel to dry off can also wipe off the sunscreen, thus reducing the protection it provides from the sun.

It’s not just sun that you need to worry about

This summer, Dr. Bertucci tells us to be wary of drinks containing lime while you’re out in the sun. Limes contain furocoumarins, which are activated by sunlight, causing a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis.

“This is seen most commonly when people are outside in the sun enjoying drinks that contain lime,” explains Dr. Bertucci. When the lime comes in contact with skin, such as around the lips or or on the body if it is splashed or spilled, it reacts with the sun. This can lead to redness and a burning sensation, followed by unsightly brown discolouration of the skin, which can take months to fade. In some cases, only the brown phase occurs.

“The tell tale sign is a splotchy pattern of brown pigmentation, often in a linear pattern, corresponding to the area where the drink spilled and trickled down the skin,” explains Dr. Bertucci. This is something to keep in mind when you’re travelling down south, where many tropical concoctions contain either lime or lime juice.


For more information on Dr. Bertucci and his practice, please visit the Ricky Kanee Schachter Dermatology Centre or www.drbertucci.com.


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital