UV Protection Tips

Most information about UV protection is widely disseminated and includes the below tips from The Skin Cancer Foundation.1

Well-known UV protection tips

  • Wearing sunglasses year-round can block out 99-100% of both UVA and UVB light.
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can block out has much as half of all UVB rays from eyes AND eyelids.
  • Apply high one ounce (one tablespoon) over your entire body SPF (15+, depending on how long you will be out in the sun), broad spectrum (Blocks UVA and UVB rays, both can cause skin cancer) sunscreen thirty minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours.
  • Cover yourself with tightly woven (high SPF) clothes.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun altogether.
  • Stay in the shade, but know that you can get UV ray exposure from reflection.

What you might not know about UV rays

Lesser known factors that will help you in developing your skin protection plan (who.int) from the World Health Organization:2

  • UV levels vary with the height of the sun in the sky and in the mid-latitudes. The strongest rays are around solar noon as this is the time when rays take their most direct path to earth. Go out later or earlier in the days when the sun’s rays are less direct and absorbed by the atmosphere.
  • UV rays are stronger near the equator as they have a shorter distance to travel. Factor this in when you plan your vacation.
  • There is less atmosphere (and less ray absorption) at higher elevations. With every 1000 feet in elevation, UV levels increase by approximately 10%.
  • Many surfaces reflect UV rays and can be harmful. Sand reflects about 15% of incident UV radiation. Seafoam reflects about 25% of incident radiation. Fresh snow almost doubles a person’s UV exposure. Light or thin clouds have little effect on UV absorption and even may enhance UV levels because of scattering.

UV protection strategy

With these factors in mind, I consider the following in my strategies to protect myself from UV rays.

  • Where am I going? Will I have shade?
  • How long will be in the sun? Can I leave if I have to? Do I have any control over where I am going?
  • Can I limit my outdoor activities to later or earlier in the day?
  • Do I have the right SPF sunscreen readily available? Do I have enough to give to others?
  • Do I need a hat? Are my face, ears, and lips protected?
  • Am I going to get wet and do I need extra clothes?
  • Can I wear long sleeves and long pants?
  • Do I need sunglasses?
  • Will I get sun through the car windows? Will I be riding in a convertible?
  • Can I vacation at times of the year or in different places when the sun is less direct?
  • Do I have the will power to say no to family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances to avoid dangerous sun exposure?

My photographer wife explained to me that all that you see is the result of light reflecting off of a surface. I cannot avoid light (I need it to see), but I can lessen my risk of exposure to dangerous UV rays.

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