Three Key Ways to Block UV Rays

Summer’s here, which means more time outdoors. But it’s not all fun and games when it comes to being out under the sun’s powerful rays. The sun emits harmful UV light rays that penetrate and damage skin in as little as 15 minutes of exposure. An immediate effect of too much UV exposure is a painful sunburn but the long-term effects are more harmful: according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over 90% of non-melanoma skin cancer cases and more than 85% of melanoma skin cancer are associated with too much UV light exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), five million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.

Before stepping into the sunshine, take steps to protect yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Slather on the sunscreen. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against multiple types of UV rays. When it comes to sunscreen, it’s all about its Sun Protection Factor (SPF). A sunscreen’s SPF helps you determine how long you can stay out in the sun while the lotion remains effective. Always look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with the highest SPF number you can find. The higher the number, the longer you can go without reapplying. Typically, you can multiply the SPF number by the number of minutes it generally takes you to develop a sunburn if outside unprotected. For example, if you typically burn after10 minutes, wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen lets you go 300 minutes before reapplying. If you’re planning to go to the beach or go swimming, also look for sunscreen that is reef safe—many chemicals in regular sunscreens kill coral reefs when it gets in the ocean. Also, remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating, even if you use a water-resistant sunscreen.

Cover with clothing. Wearing any covering while outside, especially a hat or long sleeves, provides an immediate layer of protection against UV rays. But some clothes are designed specifically to block harmful UV radiation. These clothes are made from darker, tightly knit, UV-blocking fibers and are often specially treated for maximum protection. Despite the light-blocking features, many sun-protective clothing is still lightweight and breathable, which helps you stay cool in the heat. Look for clothes with a high UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor. Similar to SPF, clothing’s UPF tells you how much of a percentage of UV rays can make it to your skin. The higher the UPF, the smaller the percentage of UV light that gets through. Clothing with a UPF of 40 and above are considered excellent at blocking UV rays.

Be made in the shade. When all else fails, stay out of the sun as much as possible. The sun’s rays are strongest at noon. Staying indoors or in a shaded area during midday can help you avoid or offset the damaging effects of UV light. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or even using an umbrella (or parasol) can also help keep you out of harm’s way. And don’t forget to wear shades—sunglasses with UV-blocking lenses are a stylish and effective way to keep your eyes safe. UV light can damage the cornea, worsen cataracts and lead to cancer on the eyelids or eyes.

How the Local 94 Health and Benefit Trust Fund Can Help

The Health and Benefit Trust Fund’s medical benefits cover physical exams and specialist visits (including dermatologists) that can help screen for skin cancer. Urgent care and physician office visits are also covered if you need them (in case of a very bad sunburn).

Want More Tips on Sun Protection?

Visit the CDC’s website on staying safe in the sun.

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