Despite the earth’s atmosphere absorbing roughly 70% of the radiation emitted by the sun, the 30% that does get through can still easily damage our skin. This is why we need to practice sun safety on a daily basis. With skin cancer rates on the rise, it’s important to remember that the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays are the biggest contributing factor for potentially getting melanoma. While we have discussed SPF and skin cancers, it’s also crucial to discuss what UV rays are:
- UV Rays – There are two types of UV Rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and is responsible for premature aging of the skin. This type of sunray makes up 95% of the UV radiation you receive from sunlight. It also penetrates beyond the epidermis and into your dermis, which is the lower layers of your skin. UVB rays on the other hand have a shorter wavelength is responsible for giving sunburns. Its effect is mostly on the epidermis and has been attributed to certain kinds of skin cancer. This type of ultraviolet ray is strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM in the United States.
- UV Index – The UV index predicts the radiation received by your body when you’re out in the sun during the day, and it’s measured from 1-11. This scale can help you determine ways on how to protect your skin depending on how high the UV radiation is on a daily basis in different cities all across the country. The EPA takes into account the weather, time of year and other local conditions to determine the UV ratings are. A scale of 1 means there is minimal risk of UV exposure, while an 11 means a very high risk.
- UPF Clothing – The demand for sun-protection clothing has been on the rise with more and more people enjoying active outdoor lifestyles. This is why there are many brands that offer clothes that have UPF ratings. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, which is the level of protection the clothing gives you against UV rays. It operates similarly to the SPF ratings, meaning that the higher it is, the better. Common UPF clothes will have a rating of 30, which means that it only allows 3% of available UV rays to pass through it. The best rated UPF clothes are at 50 or higher, which means that only 2% of UV rays pass through the fabrics. A combination of UPF clothing and sunscreens would be the best way to combat damage from UV rays.