We’re heard time and time again about UV rays, the importance of putting on sunscreen and about the SPF factor in our sunscreen. But what does it all mean?
First of all, the sun gives off light, heat and something called ultraviolet radiation (UV). There are 3 kinds of UV rays;
- UVA – 95% of the UV rays reaching Earth are UVA. These rays can cause wrinkles, changes to skin colour, premature aging, and they can heighten the cancer causing effects of UVB.
Did you know that while most windows and windshield screens in our cars offer protection from most UVB and some UVA rays, you’re often getting some UVA exposure. That’s why it’s still important to wear sunscreen if you’re sitting by a window during the day or going for long car rides.
2) UVB – only 5% of the UV light reaching the Earth is UVB but it’s also the most “biologically active”, meaning that UVB causes sunburns and skin cancer.
3) UVC – These rays don’t reach Earth so we don’t need to worry about them causing cancer.
In order to ensure you’re protected from UVA and UVB rays, it’s important to check your sun screen to make sure it says “broad – spectrum” on it.
The UV Index is reported on the radio during weather broadcasts and tells us how strong the UV rays are for that day. The index goes from 0 to 11, with 11 being extreme and 0 being low. The higher the index, the shorter amount of time it would take someone to burn when outside.
What does SPF mean?
SPF is short for sun protection factor and indicates the level of protection a sunscreen will give you from UVB rays.
SPF 15 will filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 filters out 95%, and SPF 50 filters out 98%. Unfortunately no matter which SPF you use, sunscreen will never provide 100% protection from the sun, which is why we need to do other things to protect ourselves.
Best Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun
-wearing broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen. Reapply every 2 hours and make sure you use enough. One palmful should be able to cover the face, neck, arms and legs of one person. Use water resistant sunscreen if you will be in the water or sweating.
-it takes time for sunscreen to absorb into our skin so we can’t just put it on and then run outside. Sunscreen needs to be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
-if you need to apply make-up or bug repellent, put your sunscreen on first and then apply other products 30 minutes later.
- stay in the shade during 10 AM to 4 PM when UV rays are highest.
-keep updated on the UV index. The index can still be high on cloudy days.
-wearing sun glasses with UVA/UVB protection,
-wearing tightly woven fabrics that cover your skin
-putting on a wide brimmed hat
-putting on lipbalm with 30SPF
- avoiding tanning beds and lamps as these items can still expose you to harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Canadian Cancer Society. (2016). Sun an UV. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/live-well/sun-and-uv/?region=on
Canadian Dermatology Association. (2016). Sun Safety. Retrieved from http://www.dermatology.ca/programs-resources/resources/sun-safety/
Skin Cancer Foundation. (2013). Sun Hazards in your car. Retrieved from http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/are-you-at-risk/sun-hazards-in-your-car