10 Common Sun Protection Mistakes

While some exposure to sunlight can be enjoyable, too much can be dangerous. Most people are not aware that skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. Avoid these common mistakes and enjoy your time in the sun while protecting yourself from overexposure. 

1. Judging UV severity by the temperature

It is easy to assume the hotter the temperature, the higher the UV. Unfortunately, this is not true. Ultraviolet radiation is not directly related to temperature. UV radiation can be just as dangerous at 70 degrees Fahrenheit as it can at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Wearing sleeveless tops when the UV is high

Exposure of skin in high UV is what leads to sun damage. Mechanical protection by clothing is the most effective protection against UV.

3. Not wearing enough sunscreen

First off, we tend to miss areas without realizing it. It is very difficult to ensure we are covering every inch of exposed skin. Second, we tend not to apply sunscreen thick enough. Lastly, we fail to reapply. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours and should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure. Putting on sunscreen and then walking out to the beach or pool immediately after is a common practice that many mistakenly do.

4. Relying solely on sunscreen

Even if applied correctly, no sunscreen blocks 100% of UV rays.

5. Thinking sunscreen will protect you all day long

This goes back to #3. Sunscreen must be reapplied every 2 hours during continued exposure.

6. Wearing a cap or a visor

Using a cap or visor only protects a portion of your face. You still fail to protect your ears, sides of face and back of neck. And a visor leaves the head unprotected. A wide-brimmed hat is recommended for its broader protection.

7. Not protecting yourself on cloudy days

Clouds do not protect against UV rays. They can diminish the rays but this depends on the thickness of the clouds which you cannot tell just by looking up. Plus, clouds are in constant motion and therefore, unreliable protection

8. Relying on shade alone

UV reflects like a mirror. For example, if you are sitting on the beach under an umbrella, the UV rays reflect off the sand like a mirror, amplifying their effect.

9. Not wearing close fitting sunglasses

Most people probably understand the link between UV radiation and skin cancer. But many are less aware of the connection between UV radiation and eye damage. Prolonged or repeated exposure can cause macular degeneration, cataracts, temporary blindness, eye melanoma, and development of non-cancerous growths also called pterygium or “surfer’s eye”. It is important that sunglasses are not only warn when the index is above 3, but are close fitting to avoid UV rays from passing around the glasses and into the eye. Look for sunglasses specifically designed for UV eye protection that are rated UV400 or higher; that means they’ll block 99.9% of UV rays.

10. I don’t need protection while driving my car

While UVB cannot penetrate through glass, UVA can and does! And UVA makes up the bulk of radiation reaching the earth’s surface. UVA although less potent, it is responsible for damaging the dermis and causing thinning of the skin, premature aging and photodamage.

Learn about the UV index. The Ultraviolet (UV) Index predicts the ultraviolet radiation levels on a 1-11+ scale. The UV Index provides a daily forecast of the expected intensity of UV radiation from the sun. World Health Organization recommends defending ourselves when the UV index is above 3. You can check the daily index by downloading the app. UV index can help plan your day. In general, UV index is lowest before 10am and after 4pm.

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