This month our heath focus is UV safety and 5 facts to keep you informed.

 

Lindsay Simone

 

Lindsay Simone

Director, Health & wellness

We all know too much sun exposure can lead to burning and may eventually lead to skin cancer. But shouldn’t we spend some time in the sun to get the benefits of vitamin D? What’s the right amount of sun without being too much?

As director of health and wellness for ACEC Life/Health Trust, and in honor of UV Safety Awareness Month, I want to provide you with some quick tips to navigate the sunny summer months safely.

 

1. The basics of ultraviolet radiation

Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is a kind of electromagnetic radiation that can damage the DNA in your skin cells and lead to cancer.

There are three types of UV radiation.

  • UVA – Lower-energy rays that can cause aging and may play a role in skin cancer.
  • UVB – Higher-energy rays that cause sunburns and are thought to cause most skin cancers.
  • UVC – Highest-energy rays; while our atmosphere absorbs most of the UVC rays that come from the sun, UVC can also come from welding torches, mercury lamps and UV sanitizing bulbs.

2. How much sun exposure is too much?

Safe sun exposure can vary greatly based on two main things.

  • Your skin type. The palest people can burn in as little as 10 minutes, whereas the darkest people can go over an hour without burning. See a chart here.
  • Your environment. The sun's rays are strongest when it is directly overhead on a clear day – for most of us, that means summer and spring, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But remember that with enough exposure, you can still get burned on cloudy days.

3. Can you get sunburned through a window?

No – but you can get skin damage. Windows in your car, home and office filter out UVB rays that cause sunburn, but they don’t filter out UVA rays, which can lead to aging and skin cancer. If you work in a sunny office or drive often with the sun beating down on you, your skin is at risk.

4. When should you wear sunscreen?

Considering all the variables, many dermatologists play it safe and recommend wearing sunscreen every day on exposed areas, such as your face and neck. Choose a broad-spectrum with SPF 30 or higher: apply once if you will be indoors and reapply every two hours if you are going to be outdoors for long periods. If you are especially light-skinned or outside when the sun’s rays are strongest, apply more often.

5. What about vitamin D?

The pandemic made us all pay more attention to immune-boosting vitamin D – an estimated 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. And sunlight is our best source of the vitamin: Our bodies synthesize vitamin D when UVB light touches the cholesterol in our skin.

So how do we square our vitamin needs with all the sunshine scares? Luckily, it takes less time to get the vitamin D you need than it does for you to burn. But that time varies, just as burn time varies with your skin type and environment.

You can work to fill the vitamin D gap, particularly in winter, by eating foods that are naturally high in the nutrient, such as salmon, tuna and egg yolks; eating fortified foods, such as milk and cereal; or by taking supplements.

Summarizing sun safety

We're all ready to get outside in the sunshine this summer. Just remember these rules of thumb:

  • A few minutes of sunshine without sunscreen is OK – a good source of vitamin D
  • Beyond those few minutes, dermatologists still recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day
  • Exposure time and sunscreen reapplication depend on your skin type and environment – if you're especially light-skinned or it's an especially sunny day, be more cautious

 

 

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