In May, we wrote about Skin Cancer Awareness Month and offered some basic tips, but taking care of your skin is a daily concern. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin in just 15 minutes without proper protection. Even clouds or shaded areas don’t offer complete protection – only deep shade (where no UV rays can penetrate) areas are safe.
According to Dr. Ingrid Polcari, the author of a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 80% of UV rays can still reach your skin on cloudy days.
Speaking of which, you may have learned about or heard of UVA, UVB, and UVC rays at some point. UVC is mostly absorbed in the atmosphere and isn’t something people generally need to worry about. However, UVA and UVB are both damaging, so when looking for sunscreens, it’s important to know that the SPF rating only refers to UVB protection. When seeking out sunscreen that protects against both, look for the additional label of “broad spectrum” and/or these ingredients: Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone.
And, last but not least, for those of you who tan well, don’t be fooled! Dr. Ross Levy, chief of dermatology at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., says that it’s still a sign of skin damage as UV rays damage the DNA of skin cells.
To learn more, visit the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) fact sheet on Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure.