The sun is fantastic! It does so many amazing things for the human body, especially when we know how to stay sun safe. It helps our sleep cycles, gives us healthy bones, fights off winter depression and provides precious vitamin D, just to name a few.
However, studies show too much sun can be quite harmful for our bodies. The harmful effects of the sun range from sunburn to wrinkles and even skin cancer (WebMD.) These effects can harm people of all skin tones, so we should all be aware of the damaging effects of the sun, even in the winter! Here are five quick and easy ways to stay safe from that winter sun.
- Be Aware:
The sun’s rays contain three different types of UV radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC. To make them a little easier to understand, I like to think of them as the UV – ABC’s … let me explain.
UVA-Around all the time
This is the most common type of radiation and makes up for the vast majority of the sun exposure we feel and see. It accounts for premature skin aging and wrinkling. UVA is present year round which means it can do just as much harm in the winter as it can in the summer.
UVB – Better be careful
This type of radiation is much more present in the summer months and is what causes us the most harm. It can give us nasty sunburns and even cause skin cancer. We should know how much exposure we have towards UVC rays during these damaging months (April-October) in order to truly remain sun safe.
UVC – Can’t touch this
By far, UVC is the most damaging type, but it is almost completely blocked by the earth’s ozone. So, this radiation can’t affect our skin.
It is important to know how intense the UV radiation is on a given day to keep yourself protected.
One of the best ways to be aware of the sun’s radiation intensity is through our smartphone app: Solar Screen. Solar Screen allows you to see just how intense the solar radiation is on a scale from 1-11. This is a very easy way to stay safe and knowledgeable for people of all ages and skin tones.
It is important to know not only how intense the sun’s radiation is, but how much time we each should spend exposed to it, protected and unprotected. Numerous sources advise that, “lighter-skinned individuals should get between ten and fifteen minutes of sunlight at least three times a week, during which they should not be wearing sunblock. Darker-skinned individuals may need ten times this amount to produce the same amount of vitamin D since their skin has high melanin levels, and hence more protection against the UV radiation” (Jakuboski.)
It is important to know how the sun affects our bodies individually and not assume that what is good for someone else is good for you.
- Skin Protection
It has been shown that, “Ultraviolet radiation from the sun accounts for 86% of all melanoma cases and 90% of SCC and BCC cases” (SkinCancerFoundation.) The vast majority of these cases, most likely, could have been avoided with proper skin protection.
It is important to use skin protection year-round, as it is easy to get a sunburn even on a cloudy day or from the sun reflecting off the snow. A lot of skin damage can happen on days like these, when people think the sun isn’t at all harmful.
- Eye Protection
Cataracts, which can cloud your eye lens and cause damage to your retina, can be another serious side effect of getting too much sun. This is one to be especially careful of in the winter time. According to optometrists, “Ultraviolet (UV) rays can be up to eight times more powerful on ski slopes than elsewhere because of the reflective properties of snow.”
Wearing the right sun safe goggles on the ski hill or the right sunglasses when out and about can go a long ways in the battle against sun damage.
Picking the right clothing to protect us from the sun can help a lot. No need to wear a jumpsuit every-time you go out. However, wearing a long sleeve shirt and a hat is going to give you much more protection from those pesky UV rays. Just knowing how intense the UV rays are on any particular day can help you evaluate your protection needs. There is clothing you can get that is UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rated. Basically, it can block a certain percentage of the sun’s radiation.
It is important to know that the winter sun has the ability to affect us and cause skin damage. However, just being aware of that fact and taking a few precautionary measures can go a long way. These simple measures and tools can help you to stay sun safe, no matter the location or time of year.