While sun exposure offers health benefits, it's crucial to guard against overexposure and unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can deeply affect our skin's health and contribute to serious conditions. 

UV rays emitted from the sun in the form of UVA or UVB can be absorbed into the skin. 

'UVA radiation makes up 95 per cent of all the UV rays that make it to the Earth’s surface and can penetrate deep into our skin to a layer called the dermis,' said a representative of SunSmart Sask. 

A tan is the result of UVA exposure, as the body produces melanin to try to protect itself. It causes almost all forms of ageing, including wrinkles. UVA damages collagen and elastin in the skin and generates free radicals and plays a role in certain types of skin cancer.

UVB makes up about 5 per cent of UV rays that the skin absorbs. It does not penetrate as deeply into the skin but causes more superficial sun damage, such as sunburns, and leads to cell DNA mutations that can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. 

'It’s always best to ensure we actively keep our skin protected from harmful UV rays.' 

Several factors affect the UV level, such as time of day, time of year, cloud cover, altitude, location, and surrounding surfaces. UV radiation cannot be seen or felt and is not related to temperature, so it cannot be determined by feeling. 

The World Health Organization's Global Solar UV Index measures UV levels on a scale from 0 (low) to 11+ (extreme). The UV index in Canada is generally three or higher from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September. 

'Make it a daily practice to check the UV index forecast for the areas that you live and visit and protect your skin accordingly. When the UV index is three or higher, sun safety measures are required. Where practical, plan outdoor activities for early morning or after 3 p.m. between April and September to reduce UV exposure.' 

A combination of strategies is recommended for sun safety. 'These can easily be remembered by the ‘5 S's for Sun Safety’—slip on protective clothing, slap on a hat, slop on sunscreen, slide on sunglasses, and seek shade.'"