Sunblock is extremely necessary in Brazil. While Brazil is the fifth-largest country (by area) in the world, the Equator goes right through the country. Thus, is it possible to talk in general terms about the issues of sun-care in Brazil.
Canadians do not really know the sun, not the same way as Brazilians. Canada has a very low UV index by comparison, as it does not get the intense solar rays that Brazil does. Canadians go outside and “don’t want to waste the sunshine”. As long as you are in Brazil, you will get plenty of sunshine; however, I do understand that Canadians aren’t going to travel all that distance to Brazil, just to sit in the shade. It may technically be a good idea considering the UV index, it may even be what the World Health Organization suggests, but I understand it won’t get followed. So, at least do yourself a favour and use Sunblock properly.
There are some very important things you need to know about sunblock.
1. SPF 30 is likely sufficient
With the exception of some extremely pale-skinned individuals, sunblock with an SPF factor of 30 is probably sufficient. It is much cheaper than higher SPFs, and there are diminishing returns. Generally speaking, you divide the time you spend in the sun with the SPF factor, to get the equivalent:
- 30 minutes with SPF 30 is the equivalent of one unprotected minute in the Sun.
- 30 minutes with SPF 60 is the equivalent of 30 unprotected seconds in the Sun.
Barring extreme paleness, the difference of 30 seconds isn’t extreme, but your pocket book will thank you.
Another major issue is that higher SPFs may create behavioural disincentives to use sunblock correctly. Looking at the above comparison, you may look at the numbers and think you could wear SPF 60 for two hours, and its the equivalent of wearing SPF 30 for only one. While it is technically accurate, the problem with looking at the comparison that way is that you might fail to then remember that the both sunblocks needs to be reapplied after 2 hours. The SPF 30 after one hour is still good for another hour, whereas the SPF 60 after two hours is not. So, if you accidentally make them equivalent in your head, it would be easy to accidentally go long overdue before reapplying the SPF 60. The slight lower feeling of security with the SPF 30 will remind you to use it properly.
Further, higher SPFs, depending on the country it is sold, are not always associated with higher protection of the damaging UVA rays, but only UVB. While UVB are the more likely to cause painful sunburns, UVA is associated with faster aging of your skin, and more importantly, UVA is associated with increased cancer risk. Unless there are strong statements of broad spectrum protection, you may actually be better protected by SPF 30.
2. Use Sunscreen properly.
Sunscreen needs to be applied 30 minutes before you go outside to be effective. You want it to have some time to soak into your skin and actually begin protecting you.
As I said above, sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours, don’t forget this. Sunscreen doesn’t always disappear everywhere at the same rate, so you may not notice parts where you are beginning to burn until it is too late. Your body will absorb the sunscreen, and it won’t be effective all day. Sunburns will ruin your trip, it is incredibly hard to sleep on a sunburned back, and you won’t want to move, walk anywhere, or even enjoy the sun. If you were going to just stay in the hotel, why would you have even gone to Brazil?
You also need to reapply when you sweat or when you get wet. Water is a natural solvent, and is really good at its job. If you look at the supposedly “water resistant”, or “sweat proof” sunblocks, they all still recommend you reapply after any situation in which the sunblock may have washed off. While I do think they are a good idea, they can only do their job so well, so you have to do your part and reapply.
Remember to use enough sunblock – you want to use about a shot glass full every time you apply it.
3. Spray sunscreens
Personally, I like spray sunscreens. A big drawback is that it is hard to know if i have used enough, but that is why I apply twice as much as I think I need. However, the main benefit for me, is that I am not a flexible man. I can’t touch everywhere on my back, and the spray sunscreen at least allows me to know some sunscreen is applied everywhere. Partial protection is better than none.
Simple tips to remember:
- Put Sunblock on when you wake up
- make it part of your morning routine, after you’ve dried from your shower, and gotten dressed. Sunblock is supposed to go on well before you go outside anyways.
- Put sunblock on whenever you eat a meal, or start a new event
- it is easy when you are on vacation to forget the time, so take a few minutes and reapply whenever you do something new. If you apply it first thing in the morning, after breakfast and lunch, you’ll have captured most of the day. Assuming you don’t stay in one place the entire time if you apply it whenever you get to a new location, you’ll have covered most of the day.
- Put sunscreen on whenever you dry out after feeling wet.
- You’re going to a hot and humid climate, you’ll probably go for a swim, or even if you just sit there and soak in the sun, you’ll get sweaty.
The above are all about making sunscreen part of your routine, so you don’t even have to think about it. You won’t want to worry about the time of day (other than to make sure you reach your reservation), and you won’t want to have your cellphone on you. Enjoy yourself, and just have this routine.
If you do think about the time, unless you are absolutely sure of the time of your application, round down and reapply 90 minutes after the last time. Being extra protected is not a problem, and using SPF 30 you won’t break the bank.
4. Finally, if despite all of the above, you still get a sunburn…
Apply sunblock immediately, and at night apply a sunburn cream. Sunburns are not like a light switch, there are degrees, and just because you are “already burned” doesn’t mean it can’t get much, much worse. A minor sunburn is an annoyance, a bad sunburn means you probably won’t sleep well, but a really bad sunburn can lead to hospitalization.
Sorry for the delay in posting this week’s article, WordPress was down over the weekend, and the holidays delayed me a bit further.