Being out in the sun is great for various reasons. It increases the release of serotonin in the body, a mood-boosting and stabilizing chemical. Apart from this, sun exposure also provides us with Vitamin D and can reduce our stress levels. Despite these benefits, being in the sun can also cause harm.
Sun exposure is great to a degree. However, the sun’s harmful rays can cause painful sunburns on exposed skin and premature skin aging. Ensuring sun safety can also reduce the risk of skin cancer. Come cloudy days, come sunshine; UV protection is of utmost importance. This article highlights five essential sun safety tips to ensure you enjoy sun exposure without the risks of sun damage.
Many people enjoy spending time outdoors. Summer, particularly, garners much excitement as it encourages time outside to enjoy the outdoors. This season calls for more protection from outdoor events to activities like swimming and everything in-between.
However, there’s a common misconception that people only need sun protection or UV protection when the sun is out. This is untrue, given that the harmful effects of UV rays can occur even on days that aren’t sunny. This includes cloudy days and other seasons besides summer. As a result, the best way to protect your skin is to practice sun safety and UV protection all year round.
Cases like skin cancer, skin damage, premature aging, and eye damage stem from too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays. These damaging rays can also lead to effects on the immune system. As we examine the benefits of sunshine, it’s essential to place these next to the effects of unprotected exposure.
In the United States, melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is quite prevalent. Over 1.3 million people were living with melanoma of the skin in 2019 in the U.S.1 highlighting the need for increased protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Sun safety involves carefully adopting practices to protect your skin from damage and skin cancers. Unprotected and uncovered skin can easily absorb the harmful effects of UV rays. Certain medications and skin products can increase sun sensitivity.
You may be wondering exactly how the sun’s rays can lead to damage and skin cancer. You might have even heard about the effects of tanning beds. Well, invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun leads to skin damage.
We already know that the sun radiates light to the earth. Within that light are UV rays where too much UV exposure increases the risks of skin and eye damage and skin cancer. This is also how sunburn develops. UV light can also come from tanning beds and sunlamps. Two types of UV light hit the earth’s surface: UVA rays and UVB rays. Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to the risks of skin cancer2.
This Ultraviolet (UV) light is more prevalent on earth, accounting for 95% of the UV rays that reach the earth’s surface. These UV rays have a longer wavelength. Exposure to this UV radiation can lead to skin aging and increase skin cancer risks.
UVB Radiation has higher energy levels than UVA rays. It makes up the other 5% of UV radiation. UVB light typically affects the outermost layers of the skin, leading to sunburns. It also contributes to the development of skin cancer.
Both UVA and UVB rays can cause serious harm, although they affect the skin differently. When burns occur, it’s a situation where the amount of potentially damaging UV radiation exposure outweighs what can be protected against the skin’s melanin. Besides sunny days, remember that UV rays reach the earth even on cool and cloudy days.
So, how can you begin to ensure more UV protection to prevent your skin from reacting to the harshness? These sun safety tips will help you protect your skin from the risks of skin aging, burns, skin cancer, and also eye damage.
Here, you’ll find the best sun protection tips to ensure you maintain UV protection to keep your skin and health safe. If you have pale skin, blond or fair hair, or have a history of skin cancer in your family, it's advisable to pay extra care when in the sun.
Our first sun protection tip is one of the most obvious ones. One of the best ways to offer UV protection to your skin is to avoid the sun's strongest rays. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. With this knowledge, limiting your exposure to too much sun during these hours is best.
Naturally, it’s almost impossible not to be out and about at all during these hours. Outdoor workers, parents making school rounds, children, and people just enjoying the feeling of being outside will require being out of the house.
However, knowing when the sun is at its strongest you can be more conscious about exposure and put a sun protection factor in place. It’s also best to stay underneath a shade or walk around with an umbrella during peak times.
Applying sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin from damage and prevent sunburn. You’ve probably seen various sunscreen recommendations online and in person. When you use sunscreen in conjunction with other protection, you offer your skin the best care.
When shopping, make sure to pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen. A sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection protects against both UVB and UVA rays. The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. This blocks 97% of the rays. Higher SPFs block slightly more of the rays, and you can find this factor highlighted on sunscreen labels.
You can protect your skin while protecting the environment as well. These zero waste sunscreen options offer protection while remaining microplastic-free and toxin-free. For the best protection, look out for sun blockers containing zinc oxide with more than 7% concentration.
Regardless of the sunscreen brand or SPF level you choose, it’s vital always to reapply sunscreen. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours after swimming and sweating excessively. Even on cloudy days, reapplication is necessary.
To limit the risks of the sun's harmful rays, you should pay attention to sun-protective clothing. Wearing clothing that covers up your skin offers better protection than those that don’t. This is especially important when you’re out for long periods when the sun is intense.
Clothing items like long pants and long sleeve tops can help to protect your skin. When the weather is hot, it’s natural to opt for lighter pieces of clothing. In such situations, pay attention to clothing made of tightly-woven fabric. Compared to clothes that come with loosely woven fabric, tight ones reduce the chances of higher levels of rays touching your skin.
In other instances, look for clothing with UV protection factors. Such clothes offer UV protection while being wearable and practical in various seasons. Darker-colored clothes also tend to absorb more UV light compared to lighter ones.
Sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement. They can offer your eyes the necessary protection they need from the sun. Sunlight can reflect off surfaces like water, snow, and sand. Apart from skin damage, UV rays can also affect your eyes. Sun exposure can lead to a burned cornea and, over time, can cause cataracts. Apart from the eyes directly, when you wear quality sunglasses, you also protect the delicate skin around your eyes. Below are some tips to pay attention to when choosing sunglasses:
Similar to how sunglasses protect your eyes, a hat shades your face. There are different types of face covers, from baseball caps to hats with brims all around, which offer the best protection. This way, you can protect your face, ears, and even your neck.
It’s best to avoid hats with holes and instead embrace hats with tightly woven fabric. If you choose to wear a baseball cap, pay attention to protecting your eyes and neck. This includes applying sunscreen and covering up those areas.
Sun exposure occurs every day. Even when indoors, the rays can get through your windows and curtains. The sun’s UV rays can cause damaging effects on the skin, from burns and premature aging to skin cancer. To avoid these effects, put protective measures in place. The tips above will help you ensure sun safety.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.