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The Sun: Friend or Enemy?
By: Jaci Buscher | Date June 30, 2014
This article is probably coming a little late for those of you who have already suffered that dreaded, yet sometimes welcomed, first sunburn of the summer. After months of being trapped inside during the winter and then endless days of rain in the spring, we all are excited to get outside, work on our tans, and soak in the warm sun's rays. However, as much as our bodies need the vitamin D, too much of a good thing never ends well. That is why it is essential to understand the importance of sunscreen and other forms of sun protection.

Whether going out for a long day in the sun or getting ready for a typical work day, you should consider the amount of sun exposure you will encounter. These three S's will help you determine the best method for protecting yourself for any given day:

Sunscreen is the most obvious form of sun protection and should be used every day as part of your normal morning routine. For normal work days, a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher is sufficient. For days of extended exposure to the sun, it is recommended to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that is water-resistant and broad spectrum (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays). This sunscreen should be reapplied once every two hours and it should take about two tablespoons to cover your entire body.

SPF refers to the Sun Protection Factor which tells of the sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB rays (the rays that cause sunburns) from damaging your skin. For example, if it normally takes 20 minutes of sun exposure for your skin to burn, then a sunscreen with SPF 15 will extend the time it takes for your skin to burn by 15 times, causing it to take 5 hours for your skin to burn. However, just because this is how SPF is measured, it is theoretical and should not replace the two hour reapplication rule.

Sunglasses are the primary method for protecting your eyes from sun damage since it is painful and illogical to apply sunscreen directly to your eyes. Excessive sun exposure can lead to cataracts (a gradual yellowing of the eye lens causing focusing problems) as well as many different types of cancers of the eye; not to mention the very painful case of corneal sunburn. Not only are sunglasses important to your future eye health, they also make you a better driver on sunny days so that you can better see the dangers on the road. When choosing a pair of sunglasses, you want to make sure that they block 99-100 percent of the sun's ultraviolet radiation which can be determined by looking at the tag on the packaging. There are also many different types of lenses: polarized lenses reduce glare, brown lenses create great color contrast, yellow lenses are good for both contrast and depth perception, and grey lenses provide the best color correctness.

Shade is one of the protective measures that most people often don't think about. It includes consciously making an effort to stand in shade instead of sun when standing outside, but also the clothes and accessories we use to shade our bodies. Hats provide a great deal of shade for our face and can prevent that dreaded scalp-peel. Ones with a 3-inch brim or longer best protect your ears and back of the neck, places many forget to apply sunscreen.

Finally, there is a new technology in clothing, called Ultraviolet Protection Factor, which indicates the ability of the fabric to block the sun's ultraviolet rays. For example, if the UPF of a shirt is 50, it means that only 1/50th of the sun's rays can penetrate the shirt and reach your skin. Many golfing brands and other outdoor sports clothing brands are starting to put the UPF on their clothing tags to let consumers know that they will be protected from the sun while wearing their clothing.

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid a painful sunburn this summer. As much as we all want to have that sun-kissed golden tan, we must remember that healthy skin is much more important in the long run!

Info from skincancer.org