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Keeping Yourself Protected Against the Sun

April 16, 2014

By WeatherBug Meteorologists

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While sun protection is important year-round, late-springs and early-summer`s warmer weather means more time spent outside and in the sun. Whether it`s at the beach or in your own backyard, keeping yourself safe in the sun can protect against future skin problems.

One of the most common ways to protect against the sun`s rays is to use either a sunscreen or a sunblock. A sunscreen contains chemicals that will absorb harmful UV rays before they can damage your skin. In order to get the maximum benefit, sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure to give these chemicals enough time to soak into the skin and form a protective layer.

Sunblocks on the other hand are made with particles that will block UV rays from actually reaching the skin. Sunblocks start to work as soon as you apply them.

The main benefit of sunscreens and blocks is their versatility in protecting your skin. While sunburn prevention may be the main reason for their use, they also help to protect against other sun-related damage, pre-cancerous growths and premature aging among those. When looking for a sunscreen, choose one that has a SPF 15 or higher, protects against both UVA and UVB rays (broad-spectrum), and is water or sweatproof.

One place that many people may forget to protect is their lips. It is just as easy for lips to burn as it is for other areas of skin. Lip balms with SPF 15 or higher applied liberally and often will help guard against burning. An added benefit of using lip balms is the moisturizing effect, preventing chapping and dryness.

While sunscreens may be one of the more popular ways to guard against the sun, protective clothing is one of the most effective. The more skin you have covered by clothing, the greater your protection from the sun`s UV rays. Clothing provides continuous protection, unlike sunscreen which must be reapplied every two hours.

Clothing with a tighter weave will provide the most protection. Hats are also a great accessory to have for sun protection. While almost any hat will provide some amount of coverage, the best is a hat that has a wide brim all the way around in order to shade your head, ears, face, eyes, and neck.

UV rays are also dangerous to unprotected eyes. Wearing protective eyewear can help prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, and retinal damage.

Glasses should have both UVA and UVB protection. Glasses that have wraparound frames will provide the most protection since enough UV rays can still enter around regular frames to damage the eyes.

Since we receive over half of our lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18, don`t forget to make sure children are protected from the sun`s rays. If a child were to wear sunscreen every day, scientists estimate their risk of developing skin cancer could be reduced by as much as 70 percent.

Guarding against sun damage now will help protect you from a variety of health concerns in the future. So enjoy the warmer weather, have fun outside, and be safe.

For more information, check out www.gosunsmart.org.

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Story Image: People enjoying the sunshine on a July afternoon in Cape Cod, Mass. (Niklas Enblom, WeatherBug user)

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