What is UV light:
UV stands for ultraviolet
When talking about UV light, the largest source comes from the sun. The sun emits these UV rays that we can’t necessarily see, but that have a huge impact on our skin health.
There are three different types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, UVC.
UV-C rays: This type of radiation is filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere, so it does not reach us.
UVA and UVB rays: These UV rays can impact our skin. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays. Both contribute to skin cancer, burns and skin aging.
Although it is fun to be outdoors and in the sunlight, UV radiation can cause more harm than good.
How can we protect ourselves:
Sunscreen should be worn every single day. There are many types of sunscreen and there is surely one that is right for you. Certain formulations exist for sensitive skin, acne prone skin, etc. There are 2 major type of sunscreens: Mineral sunscreens and Chemical sunscreens.
For babies 6 months and older as well as children, I suggest using a mineral sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen works by sitting on top of the skin like a shield and reflecting the UV light. When you look at the active ingredients, a mineral sunscreen will either have titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Anything other than these two ingredients will most likely be a chemical sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens get absorbed into the skin and help filter the UV light so it doesn’t cause damage to our skin. There is a lot of buzz about potential harm with chemical sunscreen as a recent study reported small amounts that were absorbed into the blood stream. This amount is not considered significant an much more research is needed to understand this more. However, for babies and those with sensitive skin, it is better to just stick to a mineral sunscreen.
Some best practices to consider when using sunscreen:
- Apply every 2 hours when outdoors
- Look for “water resistant” up to 40 min or 80 min (written on label) if you are heading to the beach/pool or going to be sweating. Make sure to reapply after that amount of time.
- Look for “broad spectrum” on the label of your sunscreen as this means it is protecting against both UVA and UVB rays
- Choose an SPF of at least 30 or higher for daily use
Other ways to avoid UV radiation:
UVA rays are a constant throughout the day. UVB rays vary in intensity based on the time of day. Generally speaking, UVB rays are strongest between the hours of 10am-4pm. If you’re outside during those times you want to make sure you’re applying sunscreen and seeking shade. Also, don’t be fooled by the clouds because 80% of UV rays pass through the clouds too.
One of the ways to know if you’re getting a lot if UV radiation in your area is to check your favorite weather app and look for the “UV index”. The UV index number will tell you based on how high it is, how much UV radiation is in your specific area, and can help you make the decision of when you want to be outside.
Here is an example of what UV index looks like
And lastly, consider these other protective measures:
- Sun protective clothing (look for labels with “UPF 50”)
- Trusted UV protected glasses
- A hat for shade
- Take note of reflective surfaces such as snow and water
Instilling healthy habits in our children is key in preventing damage from the sun. The #1 risk factor for skin cancer is UV radiation over time and it is important to know how to enjoy the outdoors in a safe way!