While the sun is a great way to naturally soak up Vitamin D, the ultraviolet (UV) rays that are emitted can be harmful to the skin. See our 6 sun safety tips for safe fun in the sun.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate into the dermis (deepest) layer of the skin, while UVB rays only reach the superficial layer. According to the American Cancer Society, UV rays are the number one cause of skin cancer, with both UVA and UVB playing a factor. See our sun protection tips below to have a safe and fun day in the sun!
Protect your eyes
As mentioned earlier, the UV rays emitted from the sun can cause a wide array of problems for those who are in direct contact with it. Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization outlines the possible conditions that can develop from overexposure to the sun over time. Such problematic outcomes include macular degeneration, eye cancer, premature cataracts, and corneal sunburns. The recommendation is to always wear eye or face protection (whether it be sunglasses or a hat) to protect your corneas as well as the delicate skin around your eyes.
Choose the right sunscreen
When it comes to choosing the right sunscreen, people are always looking for the three magic letters: SPF. SPF stands for sun protection factor, with the number beside it describing the percentage of blocked and filtered UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the greater the percentage of rays that are blocked. However, as SPF increases, the difference in the percentage of protection becomes minimal. For example, SPF15 will filter out roughly 93% of all UVB rays while SPF30 filters out roughly 97%. However, SPF50 will only filter out about 98% of UVB rays. It is impossible for any sunscreen to filter 100% of UVB rays.
Anything below SPF15 will protect against sunburns but proves little effective protection against skin cancer or premature sun aging. For optimal sun protection, opt for a higher SPF with a broad-spectrum label to filter against both UVA and UVB rays.
Clothing as coverage
Sun protection can come in various forms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In keeping with the tips listed above, the CDC suggests also using clothing to reduce the risk of skin damage and disease development. Dark coloured and long-sleeved clothing can provide the same level of protection as an SPF15 sunscreen. The head should always be protected as it is the highest and closest point of contact to the sun. The face, particularly the nose and ears, are also at particularly high risk and should never be forgotten.
Overexposure to the sun for prolonged periods of time often leads people to feel lethargic and overheated. It can even lead individuals to a dehydrated state if not enough water is consumed. People lose water content and essential body salt levels deplete. This state is dangerous, as it increases the risk of heat stroke development. This rapidly developing condition occurs when an individual is dehydrated and the body is unable to self-regulate its internal temperature through sweating. When not immediately treated, it can be life-threatening. Some symptoms to be wary of are headaches, fatigue or sluggishness, seizures, high body temperature, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, or loss of consciousness. Heat strokes can be prevented through proper hydration and taking in more fluid than you may be losing on a hot day outside.
Daily UV Index
To further add to the complexity of UV rays, the strength of the sun can vary depending on the time and day. The government reports this fluctuation as the UV Index, a range from 0 to 11+. A higher index indicates a stronger sun and a greater need for sun protection. The Government of Canada states that an index of three or higher warrants for sun protection, and to avoid the ‘peak times’ of 10 am to 2 pm when the rays may be the strongest.
Opt for shade whenever possible
Being out of the sun is arguably one of the easiest forms of sun protection. However, the sun’s rays can still bounce off surfaces and harm your skin. According to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, nearly 53% of skin cancers develop on the left side, or the drivers’ side of the body. The glass on windows can only protect against 47% of UVB rays while serving no protection against UVA rays. It is recommended to get a ‘transparent window film’ to block out all UV rays for better protection.
All the sun safety tips listed above are great recommendations to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but they mean little when used alone or infrequently. Keep all of these tips in mind for the best form of protection and fun in the sun!
Written by Stephanie Tsang, BHSc.
Dehydration and Heat Stroke. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health-conditions-and-diseases/dehydration-and-heat-stroke
Government of Canada. (2018, October 30). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/weather-health/uv-index-sun-safety.html
How Can UV Rays Damage Your Eyes? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.preventblindness.org/how-can-uv-rays-damage-your-eyes
Simon, S. (2019, May 21). Have a Sun-safe Summer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/latest-news-stay-sun-safe-this-summer.html
Skin Cancer Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/shade/seek-the-shade
Sun Safety. (2018, April 24). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm