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Sun Protection Messages

Being outdoors in the sun is good for you. Just remember to take these simple precautions to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays throughout the year.

Three skiers showcase examples of sunglasses and goggles that can be worn to protect the eyes from UV in the winter.

In the late winter and early spring, fresh white snow can increase the amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation you receive by up to 85 per cent. Protect yourself on the ski slopes or on the trails by wearing sunscreen on your face, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

In the summertime, consider doing outdoor activities such as swimming before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Remember too that water and sand reflect UV radiation. Also, try to spend less time in the sun by finding shade. When you are outdoors, wear clothes that cover your skin such as hats, shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that are UV rated and wear a lot of sunscreen on skin that is not covered. Your sunscreen should block both UV-B and UV-A and have a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 or more. Be sure to reapply it every two hours or after swimming or exercising.

In the spring and fall, UV radiation from the sun can be very strong especially in the spring when ozone depletion is of concern. When outdoors, wear protective clothing, sunglasses and a hat. Put on sunscreen to protect any exposed skin. Burns and skin damage can occur quickly and stay with you for life.

When should you start taking these protective measures? As soon as you know you’ll be in the sun. We now know that it takes very little time for UV rays to damage your DNA, and increase your risk of skin cancers, weakened immune systems and eye damage.

Remember that by the time you see it, the damage has already been done. So start protecting yourself as soon as you are in the sun!

UV Index Values and Sun Protection: Detailed Table

Environment Canada's UV Index Poster (PDF; 229 KB)

To order your free copy of Environment Canada's UV Index poster, e-mail our National Inquiry Centre at enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca and ask for stock # MSC-19. You can also call 1-800-668-6767 to place your order. You can download a free copy of the PDF version from the link above.

Environment Canada developed the UV Index to inform Canadians about the strength of the sun's UV (ultraviolet) rays. UV rays can cause sunburns, eye cataracts, skin aging and skin cancer. The higher the UV Index number, the stronger the sun's rays, and the greater the need to take precaution.

The table below outlines the sun protection actions recommended at different levels of the UV Index.

UV Index Sun Protection
UV IndexDescriptionSun Protection Actions
0 - 2Low
  • Minimal sun protection required for normal activity.
  • Wear sunglasses on bright days. If outside for more than one hour, cover up and use sunscreen.
  • Reflection off snow can nearly double UV strength, so wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen on your face.
3 - 5Moderate
  • Take precaution by covering up, and wearing a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, especially if you will be outside for 30 minutes or more.
  • Look for shade near midday when the sun is strongest.
6 - 7High
  • Protection required - UV damages the skin and can cause sunburn.
  • Reduce time in the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and take full precaution by seeking shade, covering up exposed skin, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen.
8 - 10Very High
  • Extra precaution required - unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn quickly.
  • Avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and seek shade, cover up, and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
11+Extreme
  • Values of 11 or more are very rare in Canada. However, the UV Index can reach 14 or higher in the tropics and southern U.S.
  • Take full precaution. Unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn in minutes. Avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., cover up,  and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Don’t forget that white sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and increase UV exposure.