With summer finally coming, it’s only natural to want to get outdoors! However, being in the sun can bring permanent damage to your skin through its ultraviolet (UV) rays. Many people can be burned in as little as 15 minutes. Our skin absorbs two types of UV rays from the sun: UVA (long-wave) and UVB (shortwave). Both play a main role in premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), skin cancers, and immune suppression.
UVA rays make up about 95 percent of the sun’s UV radiation and although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent. They are present year round during daylight hours, and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVA rays enter the skin more deeply than UVB rays, and contribute to and possibly cause skin cancers. A tan, either from a tanning booth or outdoors, results from injury to the skin’s DNA caused by UVA rays. The skin darkens in an attempt to prevent further DNA damage, which are mutations that can lead to skin cancer.
UVB rays are present in varying intensity throughout the year, but the most significant amount hits the U.S. between 10am and 4pm from April to October. These rays are the main cause of sunburn, and tend to damage the skin’s outer layers. UVB rays play a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging. These rays do not significantly penetrate glass.
Help prevent serious skin damage—and possibly skin cancer—by following these sun-safety tips from the Sun Safety Alliance (SSA).
- Keep in mind the sun is strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts that are dark and tightly woven.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays (most sunglasses, regardless of cost, sold in the U.S. meet this standard).
- Remember that UV rays bounce off sand, snow, concrete, and water.
- Do not use sun tanning beds.
- Keep very young children (6 months or less) out of the sun.
- Sunscreens need to be applied liberally and evenly over all exposed areas.
- Apply a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher whenever you or your children are outdoors. Use products with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and contain ingredients like Avobenzone (Parsol 1789) or zinc oxide. if your skin reacts badly to a product, try another one or call a doctor.
- For children, use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen before going outdoors and reapply often.
- Reapply sunscreen after swimming, perspiring, and toweling off.
- Provide complete sunscreen coverage for your skin (including neck, ears and lips).
- For people with thin or thinning hair, apply sunscreen to the scalp as well.
- Replace sunscreen after three years or more often if it has been exposed to high temperatures and shows an earlier expiration date.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible!