Sun’s out, fun’s out! It’s a perfect day to go to the beach! You pack up your towel, a book you’ve been wanting to read, and… is that sunscreen? It’s not that sunny, you think. But wait! Don’t leave your sunscreen behind – it’s essential in protecting you from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

 

Protecting Yourself from Sun Damage:

Participants from the Inland Empire, primarily from the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, and Hemet, answered a lifestyle survey that included a question about their sun exposure. Out of 126 responses, there were only five that reported that they had little to no sun exposure each week. While the sun presents a great source for Vitamin D, it also comes along with increased risks the longer a person is exposed. A major concern is being sunburned.

Sunburned skin can be identified as sometimes blistering, red/pink, tender skin. For people with darker skin tones, the skin may become irritated. Just being sunburned once every two years increases the risk of melanoma skin cancer by three times¹! This video from Cancer Research UK explains what happens when a sunburn occurs.

 

UVA rays are able to penetrate farther into the skin than UVB rays. Image obtained from SkinCancerFoundation.

Sunscreen is an easy first defensive measure against the harmful UV rays. When purchasing sunscreen, look for a high SPF value as well as protection against UVA and UVB rays. A “broad spectrum” sunscreen will protect you from both types of UV rays. 

Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from UV radiation! Image obtained from Skin Cancer Foundation.
    • UVA (Ultraviolet A) rays are the most prevalent UV ray and are attributed to skin aging,wrinkling, and tanning. UVA rays are able to penetrate deeper into the skin and damage skin cells. Accumulation of UVA rays, whether from outdoor tanning or from tanning booths (which can emit 12x as much UVA rays as the sun), can lead to skin cancer. Interestingly enough, UVA rays can penetrate through clouds. This means that cloudy days aren’t a chance to skip out on the broad-spectrum sunscreen³!
    • UVB (Ultraviolet B) rays are attributed to causing sunburn. Though they may not be as prevalent as UVA rays, UVB rays have a higher intensity. The most UVB ray exposure occurs from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. from April – October. If possible, avoid prolonged activity in the sun during those hours³.
    • SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and determines how long your skin would be protected from being sunburned as opposed to not using sunscreen. For example, a sunscreen with an SPF value of 50 means that your skin takes 50 times as long to be sunburned from UVB rays. Higher SPF values also means that more of the UVB rays are blocked by the sunscreen. For example, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, while a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays³Look for the following FDA ingredients in your sunscreen:

 

Environmental Protection Agency UV Index:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an online tool for checking the UV index. Ranging from a scale of 0-15, the UV index is a prediction of overexposure of UV radiation². The higher the number on the UV index, the more urgent sun protection is needed. The following are some of the steps the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends taking for adequate sun protection³:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Usa a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Graphic showing sunburn risk at different UV levels. Think about protection when the UV Index is 3 or more
Are you aware of today’s UV index? Check using the widget below this image! Image obtained from Cancer Research UK.

Enter your city in the box below to discover today’s UV index!

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References:

¹ “How the Sun and UV Cause Cancer.” Cancer Research UK, 22 May 2018, www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/sun-uv-and-cancer/how-the-sun-and-uv-cause-cancer.

² “UV Index.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 15 Nov. 2017, www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-1.

³ “UVA & UVB.” Skin Cancer Foundation, 30 Sept. 2017, www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb.