Sun Safety: Special Considerations & Additional Thoughts

sunburnedThe article Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure provided tips for enjoying the sun and keeping protected from its harmful rays at the same time. Today’s post provides information regarding unique situations and elements to consider for complete sun safety.

Special Considerations

Various factors influence the severity of sun damage. Be sure to keep the following special considerations in mind with regard to sun exposure.

AGEWhile everyone needs to use caution with sun exposure, children and the elderly need additional consideration.

Children and the elderly need to stay covered as much as possible and to consistently wear sunscreen.

SKINFirst consider skin complexion. According to the American Cancer Society, while any skin shade can be damaged by the sun, individuals with lighter skin are especially at risk.

Other factors relating to the skin that increase the possibility of severe sun damage and cancer include:

  • Having had skin cancer previously
  • Having a family history of skin cancer
  • Having lots of moles, having freckles and burning before tanning.

Protection in these situations is the same as with the elderly and children, cover up and wear sunscreen.

INSECT REPELLENTS AND MAKEUPBoth can decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen. Experts at the American Cancer Society recommend putting sunscreen on before applying makeup and/or insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be right next to the skin to be most effective.

In addition, insect repellent can reduce the SPF of sunscreen by up to 1/3, so increase the SPF and reapply sunscreen more often when pairing with insect repellent.

LOCATION Because the sun is stronger near the equator, getting sunburned happens more quickly. Also, the sun is more intense in high altitudes with thinner air and thinner cloud cover. So don’t forget to reapply sunscreen often and to wear a higher SPF in warmer and higher locations.

Additional Thoughts

Some less-thought-of aspects regarding sun exposure involve the UV Index, Vitamin D and alternative tanning methods.

UV INDEX According to the US EPA, “the UV index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways to prevent sun overexposure.” It helps know when to avoid being in the sun and when being outside is safer. The National Weather Service and EPA issues the UV Index forecast daily to help plan outdoor activities.

VITAMIN D Most people realize we get Vitamin D from being in the sun. However, some sources believe that getting Vitamin D safely means getting it “from your diet or vitamin supplements rather than from sun exposure.” Other sources, such as The Archives of Internal Medicine, state that, “summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient.” And most people will admit that being in the sun for a little bit each day helps elevate mood, which Vitamin D is noted to be associated with doing. If you seek sun exposure to increase Vitamin D levels, do so minimally.

ALTERNATIVE TANNINGThe American Cancer Society notes that while tanning lotions and pills claim to give a tan without sun exposure, users should proceed with caution. Some may be safe and effective, others may not work, and still others could be harmful. Do your research on products before using.

With certainty, though, all scientific sources indicate the danger of tanning beds. The EPA states that everyone should avoid tanning beds because “UV light from tanning beds… causes skin cancer and wrinkling.” In addition, the American Cancer Society reports that “people who use tanning beds are more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than never users, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota.”

Combine the tips given in Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure with the special considerations and additional thoughts in this article to ensure receiving the best possible protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

Indoor UV Protection

UV RaysDoes being indoors mean you’re protected against harmful UV rays from the sun? Yes and no. Consider the following facts about UVA and UVB rays generated by the sun.

  • UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and are strongest in the summer.
  • UVA rays contribute to premature aging and wrinkles and are constant throughout the year
  • UVA rays account for 95% of UV radiation and are 30-50 times more prevalent than UVB rays.
  • UVB rays cannot pass through glass, while up to 50% of UVA rays can pass through glass.

Does this mean that protection from the sun by using sunscreen, sunglasses and protective closing is necessary? Again, the answer is yes and no.

The amount of UVA rays that pass through windows depends upon the type of glass as well as on the type of coating on the glass. For example, car windows have been proven to let in more than 60% of UVA rays from the sun. For buildings, recent advancements in window glass have provided a glass that reduces UV transmissions to 20%. Some types of glass can even protect against up to 99% of all UV light but are not common in residential or commercial structures.

Because the type of glass varies from one building and vehicle to another, protection from UVA rays while indoors varies tremendously for one individual to the next. The American Academy of Dermatology says that the amount of time a person spends in the car and/or working near windows can significantly impact the amount of UVA rays he/she receives.

While most Americans spend 80% of their days behind glass, individuals most susceptible to problems caused by UVA rays that make their way through glass include anyone working near windows as well as anyone driving or riding in a car for long periods of time. The more time spent in either situation, the more important to take protective measures.

For those with increased indoor exposure to UVA rays, expert recommendations include the following:

  1. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  2. Consider UV eye protection. Many options exist for every unique situation such as the 3M SmartLens Safety Glasses with Photochromic Lenses for those who need safety glasses.
  3. Use window shades or blinds during times when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  4. Arrange workspace so as not to always be working close to windows.
  5. When driving or riding in a car, wear protective clothing (long-sleeve shirt & pants) and wrap-around sunglasses, like the Bobster Defender Sungalsses, that protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  6. Add tinting to car windows, but make sure the auto facility can meet the federal mandate for tinting.

Many people believe that the type of lighting can also contribute to indoor UV exposure, but research shows lighting sources are not a significant factor in indoor UV exposure. In fact, anti-aging skin care based on independent research indicates that typical exposure to UV light from commonly used types of fluorescent lamps is relatively small” and “most UV light generated by common halogen lamps is blocked.” However, those same studies to recommend considering extra protection, such as those listed above, for those spending a lot of time under fluorescent or halogen lighting. Research Information provided by The National Electrical Manufacturers Association supports the findings of this independent research.

Bottom line: Even if you’re indoors most of the time, spending a lot of time in the sun coming through windows puts you at risk for UVA-related skin cancer as well as increased wrinkles and premature aging. If this is you, take measures to protect your eyes and skin just as if you were outside in direct sunlight for long periods of time.

Contacts May Provide Added UV Protection

Eye ContactScientific studies have shown that prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun can cause cataracts and macular degeneration and can lead to permanent eye damage and even blindness. Prevention by wearing quality sunglasses that block at least 99% of harmful rays from the sun along with other preventative measures can reduce the chance of these problems.

In addition, it turns out that some contact wearers may be receiving added protection against harmful sun damage to the eyes that those who wear sunglasses or prescription eyewear alone do not, namely UV protection built into their contacts.

While some contacts offer little or no UV protection, others provide adequate additional protection as a supplement and compliment to sunglasses. In fact, research indicates that UV contacts in conjunction with sunglasses that provide UV protection provide better UV protection that just sunglasses alone.

Contacts with UV protection are labeled either Class 1 or Class 2. Class 1 indicates that lenses block 96% of UVA rays and 100% of UVB rays. Class 2 lenses block 70% and 95% respectively. Many contacts offer no additional UV protection.

Research also warns against relying on UV contacts alone for protecting the eyes against sun damage. This is because UV contacts in general block at least 10% less UV light than sunglasses with the amount being blocked varying from one pair of contacts to the next.

While wraparound sunglasses provide the best option for full-eye sun protection, simply wearing any sunglasses that protect against at least 99% of UV rays provides essential protection for eyes against the sun’s harmful rays. But, wearing UV contacts in addition to sunglasses brings added whole-eye protection that glasses alone simply cannot provide.

Most sunglasses fail to prevent all UV rays from reaching the eyes because of direct and indirect sunlight that shines through the top, sides and bottoms of glasses. Contacts can provide protection to theses exposed areas.

Taking the idea of complete protection even further, adding a wide-brimmed hat that covers 1” or more in front of the eye when wearing UV sunglasses and contacts provides the ideal solution for those whose eyes are exposed to the sun on a regular and prolonged basis. Those individuals include lifeguards, ski patrol and other individuals who work and spend the majority of their time in the sun.

Just like all sunglasses are not created equal and making sure you purchase quality sunglasses is essential, so too is the case with contacts that protect against UV rays. As already mentioned, not all lenses provide the same amount of UV protection with some providing no protection at all against the sun.

Check with your eye care provider with regard to the UV rating on your contacts. If your contacts do not provide UV protection, request contacts that do.

The bottom line is that UV contacts alone do not provide as much protection as sunglasses alone, especially wraparound styles. But together, UV contacts and sunglasses provide solid protection for eyes against the sun’s harmful rays.