Plans to head out on a warm, sunny day? Don’t forget your most important cover up, sunscreen! Everyone needs sunscreen. Ethnicity doesn’t matter; how easily you tan doesn’t matter. Going out in the sun without sunscreen puts you at risk for melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer.
Staying indoors is obviously the best way of avoiding the sun. If possible, individuals should learn to time outdoor exposure to avoid the hours when the sun is at its zenith or most intense. Trying to schedule activities before 10 am and after 4 pm (daylight savings time) helps avoid solar exposure at times of peak intensity. On cloudy days, as much as 80% of UVR may still penetrate cloud cover. Shade availability in recreational areas is desirable.
If you cannot avoid peak sun times during outdoor activities, remember that sunscreen! Suncreens carry sun protection factor numbers, known as SPF, which indicate how much protection they provide against the sun’s UV or ultraviolet radiation. The higher the SPF, the greater the amount of protection. A broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B, both of which can damage the skin and contribute to skin cancer.
A lot of factors affect how well sunscreen performs or protects your skin. Most people don’t know how much sunscreen to apply, on average, about one ounce. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to cover your palm of fill a shot glass. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow sufficient time for a protective film to develop. Sunscreen should be applied liberally, with particular attention to the back of the neck, the ears, and areas of the scalp with thin hair. It is important to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours for maximum protection even if the sunscreen label advises differently. This is especially important under conditions of continuous UVR exposure, such as prolonged swimming or vigorous activity.
In protection against the sun’s UV rays, sunscreens represent only one component of a total program of photo protection. Clothing can be an excellent form of sun protection. The most important determinant is tightness of the weave; fabric type is less important. Thickness is also less important than regular weave and protection drops significantly when fabric becomes wet. Color is a factor in UV protection, with dark colors protecting better than light colors. A simple way to test clothing against UV rays is to hold it up to visible light and observe the penetration. If choosing a hat for additional sun protection, one with a 4-inch wide circumferential brim is required to cover the entire face and neck. UV protective clothing is available at many mass retailers and sporting goods stores. A regular white T-shirt has an SPF of 3 but UV clothing is rated between SPF 30 and SPF 50. Most UV clothes are made with bathing suit fabric so it can be worn in and out of water. Unlike sunscreen that wears off and needs to be reapplied, UV clothes will protect people from the sun as long as they are wearing them.
Because UV light can have both acute and chronic adverse effects on ocular (eye) tissue, sunglasses provide important protection. Most sunglasses are designed to protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful effects and often labels promise protection from ultraviolet light and other kinds of natural radiation. It is important to know what kind of light you need to protect your eyes from and what type of light is not necessarily harmful. Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light, you should always buy sunglasses with this feature. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight is linked to cataracts and eye growths, including cancer. UVB radiation is considered more dangerous to the eyes and skin than UVA radiation. Both plastic and glass lenses absorb some UV light, but UV absorption can be improved by adding chemicals to the lens material during manufacturing or by applying special lens coatings. Wraparound glasses are shaped to keep light from shining around the frames and into your eyes. Studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around ordinary eyeglass frames to reduce the benefits of protective lenses. Large-framed wraparound sunglasses can protect your eyes from all angles.
Remember, when planning any outdoor activity, consider all the options. The best sunblock/sun protection is one that you will wear and/or use, so find what you like!