With beautiful scenery, endless sunshine, and warm weather, summertime is best spent outdoors. But before you go outside, it’s very important to remember to practice sun safety, especially because July is National UV safety month!

Although little bit of sun may seem harmless, the effects of UV rays have major health hazards. Luckily, there are many easy ways to prevent such effects! Read on to learn about the consequences of UV rays and how you can protect yourself while enjoying the sweet summer sunshine.

What Are UV Rays?

UV rays (ultraviolet radiation) are non-visible light waves emanating from the sun. These rays fall outside the visible spectrum, meaning humans cannot detect UV rays (but some animals actually can!). Contrary to what you may have heard, UV rays can affect you all year round — even in the harsh winter months, as UV rays are not related to air temperature. Because of their correlation to specific health hazards, it’s important to know that UV rays are strongest from 10am to 4pm. UV radiation is made up of three different bands or types: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

  • UVA Rays: These rays have a long wavelength and can penetrate past the epidermis and into the dermis, which is the inner layer of the skin. UVA rays make up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches Earth.
  • UVB Rays: As the main cause of sunburn, UVB rays affect the epidermis, or outer later of skin. These rays are also the most dangerous when it comes to skin cancer.
  • UVC Rays: These rays do not reach Earth’s surface because our atmosphere absorbs UVC rays before they hit us (thanks, atmosphere!).

The Dangers of UV Rays

The most dangerous effect of UV radiation (especially UVA rays) to humans is its direct link to skin cancer. UV rays are also known to cause serious skin damage such as discoloration, wrinkles, age spots and scarring, not to mention eye problems and a weakened immune system.

How to Protect Yourself from UV Rays

Although UV rays can be dangerous, fortunately, there are many ways that you can protect yourself. Below are 5 tips for spending a long day in the sun.

  1. Sunscreen: Make sure that you look for sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher, especially if you’re spending many hours outside. SPF specifically address UVB rays, so, for UVA protection, you need to look at the ingredients list for names such as avobenzone (Parsol 1789), benzophenones, cinnamates, sulisobenzone or zinc oxide. Be sure to apply the sunscreen before going outside, as well as reapplying often, especially after swimming, sweating, or exercising.

  2. Hats: Opt for a wide-brimmed hat for optimal protection. Hats are a great way to keep your face from being exposed to harmful sunlight. Plus, they’re great accessories!

  3. Long-Sleeved Shirts: We know that summer weather is not ideal for long-sleeved shirts, but if you’re serious about protecting your skin, we recommend dark clothing that’s tightly woven. Dark shirts are better at absorbing UV rays, whereas the average white t-shirt has an SPF of about 7 (and only 3, when it’s wet).

  4. Shade: If possible, try and find a nice shaded area in which to hang out. Not only will you find yourself immensely less sweaty, but your skin will thank you in the years to come.

  5. Sunglasses: Most sunglasses these days are UVA and UVB protected, but it never hurts to check. Tinted sunglasses that are not UV protected are actually more harmful to your eyes than no sunglasses at all, as the tint opens up your pupil and lets more harmful UV light into eye. If you’re looking for a new pair of reading sunglasses, we have plenty to choose from in different styles, tints, and powers!

Sun safety is something to take seriously, and unfortunately, many people think that they are immune to serious conditions caused by UV radiation. This summer, make the extra effort to keep your skin happy and healthy!