Did you know it’s Sun Awareness Week in Canada? With summer around the corner, it’s the right time to talk about which sunscreens are safe to use. But how you use sunscreen may be just as important as what you use to shield your skin.

Chemicals that are perfectly safe and effective to apply to your skin directly as ingredients in sunscreen or sunblock may be hazardous when inhaled. Case in point: Titanium dioxide. It’s an effective sun protection ingredient, but it’s not safe to inhale titanium dioxide particles.

But there are more reasons why you should avoid aerosols:


  • Aerosol products may pose a respiratory hazard; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating their potential effects, and dermatologists have expressed concern.



  • Aerosol products can also pollute the air around you due to their volatile organic compounds (VOC) content. VOCs can irritate eyes, nose and throat and can cause headaches, nausea and even asthma – especially in kids.



  • When applying aerosol sunscreen, not only is inhalation a problem, but sprays can be uneven, and end up covering less skin and leaving you vulnerable to burns.



Check out our handy sunscreen shopping guide to select the right sunscreen.

Sunscreen products can also contain cosmetic ingredients that are a concern for human health and the environment. Environmental Defence has created the Just Beautiful toxic ten pocket shopping guide to make it easy to spot ingredients on product labels that you may want to avoid.


Quick tips for sun safety

What to avoid:

Aerosol sun screens: some chemicals that are safe on your skin can irritate your lungs, and sprays often give uneven coverage

Fragranced sun products: fragrance ingredients won’t prevent sunburn, but some hidden ingredients like phthalates might trigger asthma

Vitamin A in sun protection products: It’s great in your food, but when applied to skin it can make you even more sun-sensitive


What to look for:

Broad spectrum protection: some products only protect you from one type of solar radiation, look for products that offer UVA and UVB protection

SPF of 50 or under: the effectiveness of any SPF over 50 can’t be proven, and it can mislead you into thinking you don’t need as much sunscreen as you really do


Easy ways to play it safe

While selecting the right sun care product may take some thought, there are plenty of easy steps you can take that will also help protect your skin this summer. Apply your sunscreen thoroughly, and reapply throughout the day, especially when sweating, or after swimming. Consider wearing a hat, or spending some time relaxing in the shade, and remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 11 AM and 4 PM. You can also check your local weather report’s UV index before going out.

It’s been a long winter so get out there and have some fun, but before stepping out, take a few quick steps to protect your skin and you certainly won’t regret it.