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Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to Stay Safe in the Sun

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Excessive sun exposure can cause sunburn, skin damage, skin cancer (the most common form of cancer), cataracts, and heat stroke. Take the right precautions to avoid these hazards and enjoy the sun safely.


  1. Select an appropriate sunscreen.
  2. Check your sunscreens SPF. The SPF, or "sun protection factor" number, contrary to popular belief, does not signify how strong the SPF is. It tells you how long it will keep you protected (theoretically). For example: it is in how many minutes you burn x the number that tells you how long it should last (even though you should reapply often, say every few hours, or more often if you burn easily). So if you burn in 10 minutes of sun exposure without any protection, SPF 30 will keep you protected for 300 minutes (in theory!).
    • Keep in mind that SPF is not cumulative. Applying one SPF 15 sunscreen and another SPF 20 sunscreen may give you slightly better coverage, but it does not add up to SPF 35.

  3. Look for both UVA and UVB coverage. This means that the sunscreen will block both kinds of damaging ultraviolet light.
  4. Look for a PABA-free sunscreen. Para-aminobenzoic acid, or PABA, was used in sunscreens for a long time, but it can stain clothing and cause an allergic reaction in some people.
  5. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen, if you will be swimming or sweating. No sunscreen is truly waterproof, so you should reapply the sunscreen frequently, according to package instructions.
  6. Choose a sunscreen that suits you. Some daily sunscreens aren't as gooey or smelly as some of the heavy-duty outdoor sport formulations. Some sunscreens come in spray-on, roll-on, and stick formats. Some sunscreens come with built-in insect repellent. Some even temporarily turn your skin a different color! If you dislike wearing it so much that you don't, it will do you no good. Wearing sunscreen need not be unpleasant, so smell and try different sunscreen brands and styles to find the one(s) that are best suited for you.
    • The word "sunblock" is a misnomer. Sunscreen slows the effects of the sun on skin by absorbing, reflecting, and scattering UV rays, but it doesn't stop them.

  7. Apply the sunscreen generously. If you're using a cream, the amount of sunscreen you should use is about the size of a regular golf-ball, or 1 oz.
  8. Start ahead of time. Ideally, begin applying sunscreen at least a half hour before you go out.
    • It takes approximately 20 minutes for sunscreen to become effective after it has been applied.

  9. Use more than you think you need. Most people do not use enough sunscreen, stopping at somewhere between one fourth and one half the quantity applied to test sunscreens.
  10. Don't just grease it on. Put a little on and rub it in. Then do it again and again, until you have a deep, penetrating layer of sunscreen. Do it right and you won't notice it at all and it will truly protect.
  11. Be thorough. Put it on the most vulnerable areas: the entire face and forehead, especially the nose and tips of ears, back of the neck, backs of knees, and arms. Make sure to cover all skin that will be exposed. Don't forget the tops of feet, if you're wearing sandals. Have a friend help with hard-to-reach spots like backs and shoulders.
  12. Keep your sunscreen relatively fresh. Expired sunscreen may not be as effective as recently-purchased sunscreen, but in general, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen. If there's no expiration date, try it and see if it still works, or replace anything older than about three years.
  13. Cover up. Light layers of clothing work best, in light colors which reflect heat, rather than dark ones, which absorb it. Try a shell or tank top, and then wear a light camp shirt open over that. Natural fibers like cotton are coolest.
  14. Wear the right hat. Choose a hat with at least a 3-inch (8 cm) brim all around. A hat will also help to keep you cool. Baseball caps leave the ears and neck exposed, so they're not the best choice for sun protection. A hat will also help to protect your eyes from glare.
  15. Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing. It will keep you cooler and help prevent sunburn by reflecting the sunlight. Be aware, though, that clothing may not block sunlight completely. In fact, an ordinary t-shirt may only be the equivalent of SPF 5. Look for clothing designed to block sun, even up to SPF 50, if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
  16. Wear sunglasses. Choose sunglasses that block UV light and wrap around to block light from the side, too. If you're not sure whether your old sunglasses adequately block UV, ask an optometrist to have them checked. Long term exposure to UV light can lead to cataracts. Wear sunglasses in conjunction with a hat.
  17. Stay hydrated. Water is the best choice. If you'll be exercising heavily, a sports drink can help to replace electrolytes. Drink in proportion to how much you perspire, but remember that too much too quickly can harm you. It's best to take frequent, moderate portions. Too much sugar, as in soda, can undermine the benefits of the liquid, and alcohol can dehydrate you outright.
  18. Stay out of the sun. Especially between 10am and 4pm, stay out of the sun as much as possible. Finding a spot in the shade, carrying an umbrella or parasol, and scheduling outdoor activities to avoid those hours can help to minimize exposure.
  19. Limit your total time in the sun. Roll up car windows and run the air conditioning rather than dangling your arm out the window. Glass blocks UV light reasonably well.
  20. Keep cool. If you have heavy physical activity to perform outside, try to do it in the morning or evening, not the heat of midday. Choose a shady spot to sit. Sip a cool drink. Take a swim.


  • Use the 5-S mnemonic to remember sun safety:
    1. Slop on some sunscreen (at least SPF 30).
    2. Slurp up some water.
    3. Slip on a shirt—you can buy SPF 50 shirts and clothing now.
    4. Slap on a sun hat—with at least a 3" brim all the way around, not a baseball hat.
    5. Step into the shade.

  • Use these tips in combination. That is, put on sunscreen, SPF-protective clothing, and a hat. Stay in the shade during the worst parts of the day.
  • Remember that children need to be educated, not just greased up! Teach them why skin cancer is far and away the most common cancer, how sun damage causes it, and how to protect themselves.
  • Keep sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat available. Leave them in your bag or vehicle so that they'll be there when you need them.
  • Don't forget your lips, they can get burned too. Slather on a lip balm with SPF 15+.
  • A T-shirt isn't always effective: the SPF of a plain White T-shirt can be as low as 4!
  • Some fabric dyes are commercially available to raise the SPF of fabrics to as much as 30. Shop around if you spend a lot of time in the sun.


  • Sunscreen is not a complete solution by itself, nor a license to spend unlimited time outdoors.
  • It's possible to get sunburned on a cloudy day, and it's possible that the clouds will clear up during the day. Take and use sun protection even if it's cool and cloudy when you leave.
  • It is possible to get burned through clothing. Clothing typically has between a 3-10 SPF. Wet clothing has even less. To be safe, apply sunscreen underneath clothing. However reapplying under clothing or under bathing suits can be cumbersome; therefore, an easier alternative might be washing clothes with a product that offers protection to clothes, such as Rit Sun Guard, which can provide an UPF (Ultra-Violet Protection) of 30 to clothes and lasts for 20 washes.
  • If possible, you should purchase a sunscreen that is paraben-free. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer.
  • When skiing or snowboarding, it is common to get a sunburn on your face. If you are planning to have some fun on the mountains, in any season, put on your sunscreen!

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