July was named UV Safety Month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Though sun protection is important every month, the recognition of UV Safety Month in July intends to spread awareness and education on protecting one’s skin from harm caused by UV rays. Which is why I’ve compiled the basics on UV Safety and Sun-Safe Protection to help educate!
It’s essential to understand what UV rays are and how they work to protect yourself from harmful and, under certain circumstances, potentially cancerous skin damage. That’s where the basics of UV Safety and Sun-Safe protection come in.
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The Basics on UV Safety and Sun-Safe Protection
What is Ultraviolet Radiation?
Ultraviolet radiation is a form of energy measured on the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. You can read more on the specifics of radiation classification on the EM spectrum here if you’re interested. The sun is a natural source of ultraviolet radiation, and other artificial sources include tanning beds, black-light lamps, and UV therapy, to name a few.
Sunlight produces three main types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays get filtered out by the ozone layer and never reach the ground. For the sake of sun safety purposes, we’re going to focus on UVA and UVB rays.
UVA versus UVB
UVA rays have the longest wavelengths, cause our skin to age prematurely, and don’t get absorbed by the ozone layer, meaning they often reach the ground and penetrate windows and clouds. Additionally, UVA rays are the primary type of light used in most tanning beds. These rays’ effect is almost immediate, whether in the form of a tan or a sunburn.
UVB rays have shorter wavelengths than UVA, damage the outer layers of our skin, cause most skin cancers, and get partially absorbed by the ozone layer, so they don’t often penetrate windows, and clouds can filter them out. Overexposure to UVB rays can cause sunburns, though they may not be visible right away.
Protect Yourself from Harmful Rays
You don’t have to miss out on fun pool parties, days outside in the park, or any other summer activities. Instead, take steps to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays so you can still enjoy some natural sunlight.
Wear sunscreen, no matter the season or weather.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that everyone uses a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB rays), SPF of 30 or higher, and water-resistant sunscreen. The AAD recommends reapplying sunscreen approximately every two hours to ensure that all skin not covered by clothing gets coated in sunscreen.
Do you need sunscreen recommendations? Check out last year’s 15 best sunscreens, according to dermatologists on Prevention.
Wear protective clothing.
Fabrics have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), which indicates how much UV radiation reaches your skin. Fabrics, similar to sunscreen, help provide a barrier for UV radiation penetration.
Not all clothing materials are created equal when it comes to UV protection. You can read more about the types of clothing qualities to look for, including color, construction, coverage, and more here.
Protect your eyes from harmful rays, too, with total UV protection sunglasses.
Eye protection doesn’t have to come at the cost of style, either. In today’s world, there are plenty of sun-safe styles to choose from.
Add a few hats to your wardrobe for Sun-Safe Protection!
Sun-safe hats are a great way to protect your face, ears, and the top of your head, of course. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are two essential qualities to look for when purchasing a sun-safe hat: a wide brim and tight-knit material. The wider the brim, the more coverage you can get, extending over your shoulders and even your upper back.
Advice for straw hat lovers: choose one that isn’t loosely woven. The wider the weave, the more the gaps in coverage provided.
If you wear face makeup, opt for products that have sunscreen in them.
Certain cosmetic brands have started building sunscreen into their products, which is another easy way to ensure you’re wearing SPF, especially if you’re already planning on applying face makeup. Remember that it doesn’t hurt to apply sunscreen underneath your makeup! Here are some products to consider adding to your lineup.
Limit your time outside during peak hours of the day.
You don’t have to forego those fun-in-the-sun activities, but be conscious of the amount of time you’re spending out in the sun. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that midday hours, between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, are when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If possible, limit the amount of time you spend outside during this timeframe, or be sure to take breaks and seek indoor or shaded protection from time-to-time.
Seek Shade as much as possible.
In addition to your clothing, sunglasses, and hat, seeking out shaded coverage can help you stay protected. Remember that some shaded areas are more protective than others based on the object creating the shade. For example, shade from a tree is different than shade from a concrete building.