6 Common Situations That Increase UV Exposure
Last updated: August 2021
Anytime the sun is shining, it’s also emitting UV radiation. However, it’s not a constant amount. There are a lot of factors that can quickly increase the UV intensity, putting you at even more risk than usual. This is especially important when on vacation – whether that be beaching in the summer or skiing in the winter.
UV radiation in everyday life
Below are some considerations and more common situations you should be aware of that increase UV radiation and make it even more damaging to your skin than usual.
Time of year
It might not come as a surprise, but warmer weather generally also means more intense UV radiation. The reason it’s warmer in the summer is because the sun is hitting the earth more directly. This increases temperature but also increases UV radiation. So while it’s important to protect yourself year-round, it’s especially important in the summer.
Time of day
Similar to the time of year having an impact, UV radiation intensity also varies throughout the day. Early morning and late afternoon generally have the lowest levels of UV exposure, with the middle of the day being the most dangerous. A good rule of thumb is to try to avoid direct sunlight from the hours of 10 am until 2 pm when UV exposure is at its peak.
The closer you are to the sun, the more damaging the sun’s rays become. When at higher elevations it means you’re closer to the sun, resulting in more UV radiation exposure than when you are closer to or at sea level. Generally speaking, every 1000m you go up in altitude, you’re exposed to about 10% more UV exposure. This can add up quickly when climbing a mountain or skiing - especially if there is also snow on the ground.
The closer you are to the equator, the more intense the UV radiation exposure. Again, this is because of the proximity of the equator to the sun. The farther away you are from the equator the farther the sun’s rays have to travel to reach you decreasing the UV intensity. As a quick reminder (if you live in the US), the further south you are, the closer you are to the equator.
This is something that catches many by surprise. People often associate UV exposure with heat. Although UV radiation is more intense in the summer, it’s still extremely dangerous even in the winter. Additionally, if there’s snow on the ground the UV exposure can almost double. Snow can reflect as much as 80% of the sun's UV radiation, meaning you are exposed to the direct sunlight in addition to the rays reflecting off the ground.
Other ground surfaces
Snow has the ability to reflect an extremely high amount of UV radiation. However, it’s not the only surface that might be over-exposing your skin. Some of the biggest culprits:
- Dry beach sand can reflect up to 15%
- Sea foam can reflect about 25%
- Even a fiberglass boat deck can reflect up to 10%
- Anything else that reflects light is also reflecting its UV radiation.
The more you know
Now that you're more aware of how UV radiation works, you'll be better equipped to protect yourself from sun damage.
What surprised you about this article?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?