Find your phototype

Different people are at different risk for sun damage. The term "sun capital" refers to all of the skin's natural defenses against sun damage, which are predetermined in childhood. Sun capital is non-renewable quality and unique to each individual.

The skin's natural defenses are determined by personal characteristics such as skin tone, eye colour and hair colour. In general, people with fair skin, eyes and hair are more likely to react to the effects of the sun. Experts think that there four major phototypes (skin types that respond differently to the sun):

  • Phototype 1 people are usually pale or fair-skinned. They may have red hair, freckles all over their body, and green eyes. Phototype 1 people always get sunburns very easily.
  • Phototype 2 people may have slightly darker complexions. They usually have blonde hair, freckles on the face or hands, and blue eyes. Phototype 2 people often get sunburns, but less frequently than those with Phototype 1.
  • Phototype 3 people can have light brown skin, brown hair, few freckles, and grey eyes. They rarely get sunburns.
  • Phototype 4 people have darker brown skin, black hair, no freckles, and brown eyes. They almost never get sunburns.

While you can't change your phototype, you can take steps to help minimize sun damage. There is enough ultraviolet radiation in sunlight to damage your skin and eyes, even when the ozone layer is normal. With the gradual thinning of the ozone layer caused by industrial substances such as chlorofluorocarbons, people are now at greater risk for sun damage. Even more worrisome is that most people are not taking the proper precautions. In a recent survey, although 80% of Canadians knew when and how they should protect themselves from the sun, only 50% reported that they actually did so.

Certain medications can make people more sensitive to the sun. For example, thiazide water pills, tetracycline antibiotics, birth control pills and some acne medications can cause photosensitivity reactions. Ask your pharmacist or doctor whether you are taking any medications that are making you sun-sensitive.

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