HealthNotes: Blog Edition

Sun Safety

July 10, 2017

Protect yourself year round from the sun’s UV rays

Warmer weather means more time spent outdoors thus increasing our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can damage skin in as little as 15 minutes.

To protect yourself and your family, the CDC recommends the following preventative measures:

Use UVA and UVB Sunscreen

Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options  to prevent UV damage.

  • How sunscreen works: Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays.
  • SPF: Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
  • Reapplication: Sunscreen wears off. Put in on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
  • Expiration date: Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Seek Shade

You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside – even when you’re in the shade. Remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest from 10am to 4pm.

Protective Clothing

When possible, long-sleeve shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.

Wear a Hat

For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.

Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.

Check the UV Index

The Ultraviolet Index predicts the ultraviolet radiation levels on a 1 to 11+ scale based on where you live. The UV Index provides a daily forecast of the expected intensity of UV radiation from the sun. Check the UV Index before you spend time outdoors. Visit epa.gov UV Index page to help you plan your sun protection accordingly.

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