July marks National UV Safety Awareness Month, a time dedicated to spreading the word on how people can enjoy themselves safely under the sun. Continue reading to learn more about what ultraviolet rays are, how they can affect us, and how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.
The sun releases two kinds of ultraviolet radiation that affect our skin; ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays are the weakest between the two because they carry the least amount of energy from the sun.1 Coming into contact with these rays for long periods of time can cause premature aging of the skin and wrinkles. UVB rays are stronger than UVA; directly damaging skin cells and predominantly causing sunburns. Overexposure to these rays can cause long-term skin damage that may develop into skin cancer.2
Before leaving your home it’s important to take a look at your local weather network for the current UV index. The scale classifies the strength of the sun and indicates how quickly one can burn if they aren’t dressed appropriately. The following are ratings of the UV index and what they represent:
- 0-2: the chances of contracting a burn are minimal and the time to burn is approximately 60 minutes.
- 3-5: the likelihood of developing a sunburn is moderate and the time to burn is approximately 30-45 minutes.
- 6-7: the probability of getting a sunburn is high and the time to burn is approximately 15-25 minutes.
- 8-10: the risk of burning is very high with the time to burn averaging 15 minutes.
- 11+: it is recommended to avoid the sun as exposure can lead to skin damages in less than 10 minutes if unprotected.3
How to protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation:
- Dress appropriately for the weather. If the UV ray index is high, wear protective clothing that will cover your skin such as pants, long sleeved shirts, sunglasses and a hat.4
- Avoid spending long periods of time in the sun. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., try to seek shade during this time of day.5
- Apply sunscreen before going outdoors. If you’re swimming or sweating profusely, reapply water resistant sunscreen every two hours for optimal protection.6
- It is recommended to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more as these provide better protection against UVA and UVB rays.7
- Avoid tanning beds and tanning lamps. These appliances produce UVA and UVB rays which can cause skin damage and may lead to skin cancer.8
- Be mindful of bright surfaces. The sun’s UV rays can reflect off of the surrounding environment, such as pavement, sand, snow and water, leading to further exposure to radiation.9
- Monitor your skin for any suspicious moles or lesions. If these continue to grow in size, seek medical attention from a professional.10