5 things to know about enjoying the sun without getting a burn

The slathering of sunscreen will be essential to enjoying the warm rays this long weekend, but if you're not using it right it won't help.

SPF 30 is recommended but SPF 60 or higher is better

The slathering of sunscreen is essential to enjoying warm rays, but if you're not using it right, it won't help, Dr. Rochelle Van De Velde says. (wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Whether it's camping, swimming, fishing or sipping an icy drink on a patio, many people will be spending their long weekend taking advantage of the sunshine.

The slathering of sunscreen will be essential to enjoying the warm rays, but if you're not using it right, it won't help.

Winnipeg's Dr. Rochelle Van De Velde is a diplomat of the American Board of Dermatologists and she has some tips for avoiding burns while enjoying outdoor activities.

SPF 30 recommended but SPF 60 is better

SPF is the sun protective factor and it refers to the amount of protection you get from UVB light. Dermatologists recommend SPF 30 but Van De Velde said it's probably better to go higher.

"We have done studies where we have asked people to put on their sunscreen and show us how much they used," she said. "In general, people put on about a third to a half of the recommended amount, and so they are probably only getting half the protection."

Lotions for 1st layer, sprays for your head

Creams are more effective than sprays only because people tend to put more on, Van De Velde said.

"Sprays are excellent for reapplying to kids, like when they are running past you on the beach and you can't stop them long enough to put the sunscreen on," she said, adding it's also good to protect your head.

"That's a really good alternative if they are on a boat or going swimming and they can't keep a hat on."

Apply sunscreen before you leave the house

Van De Velde said people should apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before heading outdoors and continue applying every one to two hours.

"Especially if it's kids that are sweating or swimming or tubing doing anything where they are going to be towelling off, rubbing the sunscreen off," she said. "You want to apply it on a regular basis."

Parabens are safe but there are alternatives

Van De Velde said she often gets questions from patients about the safety of parabens, a preservative often found in cosmetics, sunscreens and pharmaceutical products.

"What I tell my patients is there really is no good evidence to suggest there are dangers in using parabens, but by all means if they want to avoid them, there are lots of alternative sunscreens," she said.

Although Van De Velde said chemical sunscreens are more effective, mineral sunscreens are also an option if they are applied regularly.

Van De Velde added that sunscreens are safe for babies but because they aren't as adept at regulating their heat, kids under six months old should be kept out of the sun.

Vitamin D no excuse to leave off sunscreen

Vitamin D is important, but Van De Velde said we actually get most of it from our diet through things like oily fish, eggs and meat. She said a finite amount of the vitamin is produced in the skin, and it only takes five to 10 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen a few times a week.

"After you have produced that finite amount of Vitamin D, further exposure to the sun doesn't increase our Vitamin D levels but just increases our risk of skin cancer," she said. "I think it's all about balance."