Protect Yourself From UV

July is UV Safety Month.

At one time or another we’ve all had a serious sunburn and we know how bad it can hurt.  I have certainly had my share.  I once burned my knees sitting at a Cincinnati Reds day game.  The burns were so severe, I couldn’t walk the next day because I didn’t have the strength in my legs.  I burned the tops of my feet at Daytona Beach one year (on the first day of my vacation) even though I had applied sunscreen (once).  The pain and blistering all but ruined that trip.  Beyond the initial pain, prolonged, unprotected exposure can cause damage to your skin, including certain types of cancer.


UV rays react with a chemical called melanin.  This chemical is found in your skin.  Melanin is your body’s defense against the sun because it absorbs dangerous UV rays.  People have different concentrations of Melanin in their skin.  This is why people tan darker or burn easier. The lighter a person’s natural skin color, the less melanin it has.  I have very low amounts of melanin.

The best way to protect your skin from UV light is to avoid prolonged exposure to it.  But, unless you are a vampire, you are probably not going to do that.  Your next best bet is to protect your skin while exposing it to the sun.  Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Using sunscreen can reduce your chances of burning.  This does not allow you to spend unlimited time outdoors without risk.
  • The medical community recommends that you use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15-30.  An SPF of 30 can block up to 97% of the harmful UV rays.  Using an SPF higher than 30 hasn’t proven to make a positive difference.
  • Sunscreen must absorb into the skin to be effective.  Apply it about 30 minutes prior to any planned outdoor activities.  This will allow your sunscreen to absorb into the skin properly.
  • Reapply your sunscreen every 60-90 minutes.  You should reapply more frequently if you are spending time in water, even if you are using “waterproof” sunscreen.
  • Choose sunscreen that protects you from UVA and UVB light.  Check the label.  It should say something to the effect of “Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection”.
  • You can get a sunburn through your clothes!  Some clothing provides little or no protection.  While not all experts agree, a white t-shirt only rates an SPF of 5 or 6.  It only rates an SPF of 2-3 if it is wet.
  • Wear a full brimmed hat.  It will not only protect your face, but your ears and neck as well.
  • It is also important to protect your eyes.  Choose sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays.

There are health benefits to short term sun exposure (from vitamin D) and definite health benefits to being outside.  Enjoying the outdoors can reduce stress and boost your mood.  So enjoy the outdoors!  Enjoy the sun!  Just do it responsibly.

Whether your sun exposure is from work or play, what other tips have you used to protect yourself?




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