Protecting Yourself in the Sun

It’s common knowledge that sun damage is the number one factor in skin cancer and the skin's aging. In fact, in the three decades from 1973 to 2003, the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, rose by 81 percent.

For that reason, you need to research this topic as thoroughly as possible. Therefore, to understand UV protection, read every article in this section.

This first section is an overview of how you can jump into your sun protection program. In addition, it provides guidance on how you can protect your skin from harmful UV rays. This is, however, just an overview- to go deeper into the subject, be sure to read the other articles.

Basic Sun Protection 101

The American Academy of Dermatology has recommended some basic protective actions to counter UV exposure:

  • When planning activities outside, aim for early or late in the day; try avoiding the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which tend to be peak sunlight hours.
  • Stay away from tanning beds.
  • Wear clothing that covers, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Sunglasses are best when they cover as much of your face as possible and protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Stay in the shade when you can.
  • Always use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and apply it on any exposed area- do this even if it’s cloudy.
  • Continue to protect yourself from UV exposure even while indoors or driving.
  • If you have sensitive skin, use sunscreen with an increased SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Water, snow, and sand are highly reflective and can increase your chance of sunburn- make sure you are well protected.
  • If you are going to go swimming or engage in sweaty activities, use water-resistant sunscreen.
  • Don’t seek the sun. Instead, for your vitamin D needs, try to get vitamin D from your diet; include supplements if needed.
Ultraviolet rays are divided into three separate categories and have different effects upon our bodies. Those three are: UVA, UVB and UVC rays- often written as UVA, UVB, and UVC. There are varying theories about UV radiation, but most experts agree that only type UVA and UVB rays can reach the Earth and are, therefore, harmful to our skin. UVC rays, while also dangerous, cannot get through the ozone layer to the Earth.
During peak sun hours use window blinds or shades to block out direct exposure. If you can, try to arrange your workspace and sitting areas not to be too close to the windows. These areas will best serve you away from direct sunlight. As you get further away from a window, UVA rays decrease significantly. Therefore, it makes the most sense to avoid spending too much time close to the windows- especially if you have large windows.
Sunscreens come in creams, sprays, gels, lotions, sticks, and ointments. Although a higher SPF number provides better protection, it does not necessarily increase the length of time you can be exposed to the sun.
The first step in finding and choosing the best sunscreen for you is to choose a product that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. That is, the better the sunblock, the stronger its ability to provide you with a high degree of protection against sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer.
In the previous sections, the dangers of UV radiation exposure have been clearly explained and expounded upon. However, total avoidance of the sun can also lead to negative consequences. That is, there are health benefits to be had from exposure to sunlight.