Sun Protection

June 3, 2015

Healthy Living · By Kris Parfitt

Year-round protection for fun in the sun

The American Cancer Society estimates that 24 Americans die every day from skin-cancer related illnesses. That’s approximately one person an hour. This includes 75,000 cases of malignant melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer.

The bright side of this data? Even though skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., it is also the most preventable.

While the best sun protection is not being in the sun at all, that’s not an ideal solution for many of us who recreate in, travel through, or make their living out-of-doors. Those with light skin, children, and anyone on prescription medication that warns about sun exposure are most susceptible to UV light damage.

Regardless of skin color and susceptibility, everyone would benefit from practicing year-round skin protection.

To encourage people to take part in this practice, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day.” This year it’s May 22.

Sun protection tips

  • Slip on, or under, sun-protective fabric.

  • Slop on sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.

  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Wrap those UV-ray protection sunglasses around your face.

  • Slip on or under sun-protective fabric

Keep in mind that not all fabric barriers are protective nor are they created equal. Whether you lounge under an umbrella, tent or wear protective clothing, know which fabrics will protect you from the sun and which will not.

A tight weave of synthetic threads like nylon or polyester are most effective at blocking UV light. Bleached or lightly died cotton is the poorest barrier.

Fabrics treated with UV-absorbing or reflective chemicals and dyes are also effective. Keep in mind that it’s not the color of the dye, rather it’s the concentration of dye that decreases penetration of UV rays.

Similar to the SPF rating system, sun-protective fabrics are rated using an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). Preferable UPFs for fabric sun protection ranges from UPF 15 to 50 which blocks 93.3 to 99 percent of UV rays, respectively.

Slop on sunscreen

When shopping for sun protection lotion, look for brands with labels that say the product provides Broad Spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, has an SPF of 15, 30 or 50 (any higher than 50 does not offer more protection), and is water-resistant for approximately 40 minutes. The FDA has said that it is misleading for brands to advertise that their lotions are water- or sweat-proof.

Follow these tips for proper application of suntan lotion.

An average adult requires approximately a shot-glass worth (1–2 ounces) of sun lotion to adequately protect themselves from head to toe.

Apply lotion approximately 15 minutes before exposure to sun.

Regardless of water or sweat-inducing activity, reapply lotion every two hours.

Slap on a wide-brimmed hat

Chose one that preferably covers your entire head and face and, at the very least, your neck and ears.

If your hair is thin on top of your head or you are bald, wear a hat. If you are unable to wear a hat, apply sun lotion, or spray, to the top and sides of your head, ears and neck.

While windows in a building, house, car or boat provide protection from wind and rain, they do not guarantee protection from UV rays. Ensure that you wear a hat and/or protective sun lotion if you sit near a window on either a sunny or cloudy day. The same goes for sunroofs.

Eighty percent of harmful sunrays penetrate through clouds, fog and haze. If you don’t want to wear lotion on colder or cloudy days, consider a hat or protective nylon weave umbrella to protect you from UV rays.

Wrap those UV ray protection sunglasses…

… around your face. While they are a trendy fashion accessory, they also play an important role in protecting our eyes from damaging sunrays.

Keep these tips in mind when shopping for sunglasses:

A dark lens does not equal UVA and UVB sun protection. Read the label and confirm that it says the lenses block both UVA and UVB rays by 99 to 100 percent.

Price and brand do not necessarily buy a higher quality, more protective pair of glasses. Do your homework and find out which brands meet sun protection standards and fit your budget.

Finally, wrap-around frames that cover not only your eyes, but all the way to your temples, will block the most sun light.

Kris Parfitt is a certified nutritional educator and health coach. When she isn’t outside protecting herself from the sun she is busy writing about nutrition and editing OutdoorsNW magazine. View her nutrition blog, Arrive@Thrive at