Sun safety for the entire family
While everybody needs some sun exposure to produce vitamin D (which helps in the absorption
of calcium for stronger and healthier bones), unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet
(UV) rays can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and immune system. It can also cause
cancer. Although there are other contributing factors, including heredity and environment,
sunburn and excessive UV light exposure does damage the skin, and this damage can
lead to skin cancer and photoaging.
What does tanning do to the skin?
Tanning is the skin's response to UV light. When UV rays reach the skin, the skin
makes more melanin. Melanin is the pigment that causes tanning. Tanning does not prevent
What is ultraviolet radiation?
Energy from the sun reaches the earth as visible, infrared, and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) is made up of wavelengths 320 to 400 nm (nanometers) in length.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelengths are 280 to 320 nm.
Ultraviolet C (UVC) wavelengths are 100 to 280 nm.
Only UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays reach the earth's surface. The earth's atmosphere
absorbs UVC wavelengths.
UVB rays cause a much greater risk of skin cancer than UVA.
However, UVA rays cause aging, wrinkling, and loss of elasticity.
UVA also increases the damaging effects of UVB, including skin cancer and cataracts.
In most cases, ultraviolet rays react with melanin. This is the first defense against
the sun, as it is the melanin that absorbs the dangerous UV rays that can do serious
skin damage. A sunburn develops when the amount of UV damage exceeds the protection
that the skin's melanin can provide. While a small amount of exposure to sunlight
is healthy and pleasurable, too much can be dangerous. Measures should be taken to
prevent overexposure to sunlight to reduce the risks of cancers, premature aging of
the skin, the development of cataracts, and other harmful effects.
How can you protect yourself against the sun's harmful rays?
The best way to protect yourself against the damaging effects of the sun is to limit
exposure and protect the skin.
The best way to prevent sunburn in children over 6 months of age is to follow the
"Be Sun Smartsm" tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:
Generously apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection
Factor) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. "Broad-spectrum" means the sunscreen protects
you from both UVA and UVB rays. Re-apply about every 2 hours and after swimming or
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat,
and sunglasses, whenever possible. Look for clothing with a UV protection factor (UPF).
Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10
a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. They reflect the damaging rays of the
sun which can increase your chances of sunburn.
Get vitamin D through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.
Do not use tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause
skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, try using a self-tanning product,
but also use sunscreen with it.
Protect your lips with lip balm with at least SPF 15.
Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing,
or bleeding on your skin, see a doctor right away. Skin cancer is very treatable when
Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even while under an umbrella. Snow and
water are also good reflectors of UV rays. Reflective surfaces can reflect most of
the damaging sun rays.
Also, take special care to purchase protective eyewear for you and your children.
Purchase sunglasses with labels ensuring they provide UV protection.
Remember that many over-the-counter and prescription medicines increase the skin's
sensitivity to UV rays. As a result, people can develop a severe sunburn in just minutes
when taking certain medicines. Read medicine labels carefully and use extra sunscreen
What are sunscreens?
Sunscreens protect the skin against sunburns and play an important role in blocking
the penetration of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, no sunscreen blocks UV radiation
Terms used on sunscreen labels can be confusing. The protection provided by a sunscreen
is indicated by the sun protection factor (SPF) listed on the product label. A product
with an SPF higher than 15 is recommended for daily use. Sunscreens contain ingredients
that help absorb UV light, whereas sunblocks contain ingredients such as zinc oxide
and titanium dioxide that physically scatter and reflect UVB light. Keep in mind that
not all sunscreens protect against UVA rays. Look for products that have "broad spectrum"
coverage that includes protection from UVA rays.
How to use sunscreens
A sunscreen protects from sunburn and minimizes suntan by absorbing UV rays. Using
sunscreens correctly is important in protecting the skin. Consider the following recommendations:
Choose a sunscreen for children and test it on your child's wrist before using. If
your child develops skin or eye irritation, choose another brand. Apply the sunscreen
very carefully around the eyes.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet
B (UVB) rays.
Apply sunscreens to all exposed areas of skin, including easily overlooked areas,
such as the rims of the ears, the lips, the back of the neck, and tops of the feet.
Use sunscreens for all children over 6 months of age, regardless of skin or complexion
type, because all skin types need protection from UV rays. Even dark-skinned children
can have painful sunburns.
Apply sunscreens 30 minutes before going out into the sun to give it time to work.
Use it liberally and reapply it every 2 hours after being in the water or after exercising
or sweating. Sunscreens are not just for the beach - use them when you are working
in the yard or participating in sports.
Use a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen and re-apply after swimming or sweating
Use of a sunscreen with SPF of 20 to 30 offers substantial protection from sunburn
and prevents tanning. High SPF sunscreens protect from burning for longer periods
of time than do sunscreens with lower a SPF. SPF 15 blocks 93%of the UVB and PSF 34
blocks 97%. Talk with your older child or teenager about using sunscreen and why it's
important. Set a good example for them by using sunscreen yourself.
Teach your teenager to avoid tanning beds and salons. Most tanning beds and salons
use ultraviolet-A bulbs. Research has shown that UVA rays may contribute to premature
aging of the skin and skin cancer.