Summertime might be ending, but that doesn’t mean protecting yourself from the sun is any less important. In fact, sun safety is a good practice throughout the entire year. Protecting your skin includes more than sunscreen. The clothing you wear and the length of time you spend in the sun can greatly affect your skin’s exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays as well.
Here are a few safety practices to keep in mind as you spend time in the sun:
Sunscreen. First, it’s important to understand what some of the sunscreen acronyms represent. For example, SPF stands for sun protection factor. An SPF of at least 15 is recommended because it blocks about 93 percent of UV rays. An SPF of 30 blocks about 97 percent of the sun’s UV rays. Have you seen the term ‘broad-spectrum’? This type of sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s also important to read the directions on the sunscreen package to ensure it’s applied properly. Make it a habit to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out so it has time to fully absorb, and reapply as the bottle instructs, which is typically every two hours or after swimming or sweating. If your skin is sensitive to typical sunscreen products, it might be beneficial to try mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. And remember, less expensive products that have the same ingredients as more expensive products will offer the same protection.
Clothing. You may be wondering, what kind of clothing helps protect skin from the sun? That’s a great question because no sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation, so other forms of protection are recommended. For example, clothing like long-sleeve shirts and pants that cover skin that would otherwise be exposed to the sun. Have you ever wondered if fabrics that claim to block UV radiation really work? It’s all in the weave of the fabric. The most important factor to look for is tightly woven fabric that blocks out light. Not sure if your clothing is tightly woven? Try this test: Place your hand between a single layer of the clothing and a light source. If you can see your hand through the fabric, the garment offers little protection. Broad-brim hats are also suggested for protection from the sun. This means a hat with a wide brim that can shade your whole face. A baseball cap or visor does not protect the ears or sides of the face. Remember your sunglasses! Sunglasses don't have to be expensive, but they should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation and should be worn by anyone above age one. A higher price does not indicate better UV protection.
Time of day. Find shade when possible and limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are strongest. Skin damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes. Surfaces like water, pavement, sand, snow and grass can reflect the sun’s UV rays and damage skin. Sunburns can happen on a cloudy or overcast day and in the middle of winter!
Why is it so important to protect our skin? Sunburns significantly affect lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially for children. Damage from UV exposure can build up over time, which is why it’s important to start practicing sun safety today! It’s also worth noting that while ultraviolet light comes from the sun, it can also be produced by artificial sources like tanning beds. Want additional details on the information above? Visit epa.gov/sunsafety or medlineplus.gov/sunexposure.html to learn more!
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.