Sun Protection 101: A Complete Guide to Sun Safety
By Rachel Nussbaum
April 19, 2018
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re ready to shed your winter layers in favor of some fun in the sun. But before you head outside with your sunscreen in hand, make sure you’ve read up on the essentials of sun protection.
Here are the most important things you need to know:
What is SPF?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” and it refers to the amount of UVB rays that can penetrate a film of sunscreen. For example, an SPF 15 sunscreen blocks about 93% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks about 97%. Dermatologists recommend using an SPF 30 or above every day and reapplying it every two hours.
Sun Protection 101: A Complete Guide to Sun Safety
Ultraviolet rays are invisible, so your skin can be damaged without you knowing it. But understanding how UV rays affect your skin is the key to protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful effects. Let’s start with the basics: the three types of ultraviolet radiation and how each affects your skin.
UVA rays make up about 95% of UV rays that reach the earth’s surface. These are the rays that cause tanning and premature aging. Unlike UVB rays, UVA rays can pass through glass and penetrate deep into the skin layers where they damage collagen fibers, resulting in wrinkles, saggy skin, age spots, and sallow complexions.
UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburns and contribute significantly to premature aging and skin cancer. These are also the rays that trigger vitamin D production in our bodies, but as we will discuss later, this does not give us license to bake in the sun unprotected! The amount of vitamin D produced by unprotected sunlight exposure is minuscule compared to what you get from food and supplements.
UVC is absorbed by the atmosphere before it reaches earth (thankfully!), but exposure to artificial sources such as welding arcs can cause severe burns and cancer on unprotected skin.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and most cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you protect your skin from the sun every day, even when it’s cloudy or cold.
You can help protect yourself by:
Limiting your time in the sun, especially during midday hours
Wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats and sunglasses
Using sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher
The Skin Cancer Foundation offers a complete guide to sun safety. Learn how to do a self-examination and when to see a dermatologist.
Summer is quickly approaching and for many of us that means time spent outside in the sun. While the sun can be a great source of Vitamin D, it can also cause premature aging of your skin as well as skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.
How does UV damage my skin?
The sun emits light in the visible and invisible spectrum. The visible spectrum is made up of colored rays: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The invisible rays include ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC). UVA rays are long wave rays which penetrate deep into our skin causing premature aging while UVB rays are shorter waves that are responsible for burning our skin. Most of UVC’s are filtered by the atmosphere before they can reach us but some can still get through and damage our skin’s DNA.
You probably know by now that you should be wearing sunscreen year round, but what about your nails? Just like your skin, they can also burn, tan, and become discolored when exposed to the sun.
A nail technician can apply a gel polish with SPF 50 protection to your nails. When applied properly, this gel lasts for up to three weeks, even with swimming and dish washing.
Or if you want to do it yourself…
You can also use an SPF 15+ nail polish in conjunction with a base coat and top coat.
As the summer months approach, it’s important to protect your skin from sun damage and maintain healthy skin. While a tan may look attractive, the dangers of excessive sun exposure are definitely not worth it. When you’re at the beach or spending the day outdoors, you should always wear sunscreen that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. If you have sensitive skin, there are plenty of sensitive sunscreens that can help you avoid irritation. If you’re going to be swimming or sweating a lot, pick up a water-resistant sunscreen that won’t wash off easily in the water or while sweating. You should also protect yourself with clothing like hats and sunglasses as well as with light-colored clothing that reflects the sun’s rays.
Now that summer is here, we all want to look great in the sun. But a sunburn can ruin the best of plans. A tan can be so hard to get, and just one serious sunburn can cause skin cancer. The skin on your face is especially delicate and should be protected from the strong rays of the sun.
The best protection from the sun is avoiding direct exposure as much as possible. Wearing a hat or cap with a wide brim (4 inches or more) can help protect your face, shoulders and head from the sun. If you are going to be out in the sun for an extended time, you may want to wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants or skirts. You should also wear sunglasses with UV protection that wrap around your face or cover your eyes from above and below.
If you will be outside in bright sunlight for any length of time, you should apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. If you’re not sure how long you’ll be out in the sun, try carrying a bottle of sunscreen with you so you can reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily. The American Cancer Society recommends using broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB