Earlier this year, my doctor brought up sun safety and wearing sunscreen during an appointment. I’ll admit that my first thought before heading outdoors isn’t to put on sunscreen, but since our conversation, it’s been more top-of-mind for me, especially as the days heat up and I spend a little more time outdoors.
Here Comes the Sun
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting 2020 “to be one of the warmest on record.”The heat is real, and protecting yourself while outdoors is essential. While the sun provides us with many benefits, such as Vitamin D (which many people worldwide are lacking), the sun can also be harmful to us through its ultraviolet (UV) rays.
What Are UV Rays?
UV rays or ultraviolet radiation is basically a form of energy that comes from the sun and manufactured equipment like tanning beds and UV lamps (The American Cancer Society). There are different types of UV rays:
- UVA rays
- UVB rays
- UVC rays
The American Cancer Society provides an easy-to-understand breakdown of each UV ray type. UVA rays are known to play a role in skin damage, such as causing wrinkles. UVB rays are known to cause sunburns, directly damaging the skin. UVC rays are generally held back from reaching us due to our atmosphere, making them less of a threat to us directly. You can, however, find UVC rays used in lamps made to disinfect areas.
How Do UV Rays Affect the Skin?
While some sunlight is good for us, too much sunlight can be damaging to our skin. One way to imagine how UV rays can negatively affect our skin is to think about a pizza. If you leave the pizza in the oven for too long, the cheese will puff up and darken. Similarly, if we’re exposed to too much sunlight, we open ourselves up to sunburn, blistering, and the potential to develop skin cancer. That’s why it’s important to take additional measures to protect our skin while outdoors.
5 Ways to Protect Your Skin While Out in the Sun
Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies, and there are a number of things we can do to protect it.
1. Before You Go Out, Put on Sunscreen
2. Grab a Hat, Jack
3. Avoid Going Outdoors in the Middle of Day
The American Cancer Society writes that the sun’s “UV rays are strongest in the middle of the day, between 10 am and 4 pm.” If it’s at all possible, avoid going outdoors to tackle yard-work or any other activities during these hours to prevent skin damage and dehydration.
4. Put on Protective Gear
Long-sleeved shirts and pants are suitable especially if you’re going to be outside for a stretch of time. You can also now find clothes that are designed with special materials for moisture-wicking and UV protection.
Get Some Shade
Periodically get some shade under a tree, umbrella, or go back indoors. You’ll give your skin and body a break.
At a high UV index, it only takes between 15 and 25 minutes for skin damage to occur. If you’re unsure of the UV index for the day, you can always check with your local weather station. And remember, if you’re planning to be outdoors for longer periods of time, try to avoid peak hours and periodically get some shade.
For more helpful information on sun safety, check out these resources:
- “Sun Safety” – The CDC
- “Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation” – The American Cancer Society
- “How Do I Protect Myself from Ultraviolet (UV) Rays?” – The American Cancer Society
- “UV Radiation & Your Skin” – The Skin Cancer Foundation
- “The Science of Sunscreen” – Harvard Health Publishing