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What do I Need in UV Protection?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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Anyone who spends time in the sun, even for short periods of time, stands to benefit from some type of UV protection. UV protection includes chemical formulas, apparel, and glasses designed to protect the skin and eyes from harmful UV rays. The first step in selecting the right kind of UV protection starts with understanding UV rays.

The sun emits ultraviolet rays, which are a type of light energy. These rays can be separated into three different categories: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Both UVA and UVB rays are implicated in damage to the skin cells and the increased risk of skin cancer. While UVC rays can cause damage to the skin and are considered the most hazardous of the ultraviolet rays, they are completely absorbed by the ozone layer. As such, they do not reach Earth’s surface or the skin.

The most widely given advice concerning UV protection is to avoid languishing out in the sun; sunbathing is not good for the skin. Many experts recommend participating in indoor activities from about 10 AM until about 4 PM each day, as this is when rays from the sun are most intense. When a person must participate in outdoor activities at this time of day, it is wise to wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and a covering for the legs, such as a long pair of pants or a long skirt. These things can provide UV protection.

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Sunscreen can play a major role in UV protection. It is usually best to choose a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection; this means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. An SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 is typically the minimum that is recommended. The sun protection factor can be found on the labels of sunscreen and other products; it indicates about how long a person can stay in the sun and remain free of burning while wearing the product. Those with very fair skin or who burn easily may do better with a higher SPF.

While many people remember to wear sunscreen, many forget to protect their lips and eyes from UV rays, but these areas are vulnerable too. As such, it is a good idea to use a lip screen as well, choosing one that has an SPF of at least 15. Many lipsticks and lip glosses have sunscreen added to them for this purpose. It’s also a good idea to wear wraparound sunglasses that provide complete protection from UV rays, as the eyes are particularly vulnerable. UV rays can damage the retina and even make a person more likely to develop cataracts as he ages.

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