Sun Protection: Sunscreen and Sun Protective Clothing

iStock_000003429280Small_0.jpgAs spring days lengthen, we’re called back outside for walks and hikes, swimming, and lounging. And while that laze in the sun can feel awfully good, it comes with a potentially steep price. This is a reminder that you must be diligent about protecting your skin from the most harmful rays of the sun. 

Science proves that the earth’s naturally protective ozone layer is diminishing, so we’re less protected from and more exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. That’s why it is extremely important to pay close attention to how much time you actually spend in the sun, especially because it is easy to underestimate.

The effects of overexposure are cumulative – that is, they add up over time. Because sun exposure is responsible for skin cancer and 80–95% of premature aging, even as little as 15 minutes of exposure on a daily basis can be dangerous, especially for more delicate and sensitive skins.

And by exposure, I’m not just talking about being outside in direct sun. Maybe you think you’re protected if you spend most daylight hours inside at your desk. But think again, especially if you drive more than 15 minutes a day. Even though you’re in a car, you need protection from the UVA rays that come through the windows (UVB is blocked, preventing sunburn). And if you think being under a beach umbrella means you don’t need sunblock, you’re wrong again. While shade is better than direct sun, harmful rays bounce from the sand all around you – you just can’t see or feel them.

Of all the possible ways you take care of yourself – from diet and exercise to facials and massage – using sunblock should top the list. Some of it is pure common sense – like limiting outdoor activity during peak exposure time from 10 AM to 3 PM, wearing a brimmed hat outside, and staying in shaded areas as much as possible.  

Fortunately, there are new sunblock products – not all of them in a tube – that make it easier than ever to protect skin. For example, innovative fabrics have spawned an entirely new business of sun-protection clothing, an easy-to-use and reliable way to save your skin. Fabrics are rated according to an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which rates protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

The Skin Cancer Foundation
and the Melanoma International Foundation endorse select clothing lines, like Coolibar®, Columbia Sportswear Company™, Sun Busters®, and others, and for good reason. Most of these garments – including hats, shirts, pants, swim suits, dresses, and skirts – block up to 98% of UV radiation. That’s a powerful reason to think about adding sun-protective clothing items to your closet.

But you don’t need to buy a new wardrobe to get the benefits of sun-protective clothing. Now you can wash it right into the clothes you have with SunGuard™, a laundry additive that boosts clothing’s UPF to 30 for up to 20 washes. For comparison’s sake, a white cotton T-shirt offers an SPF of 3 – and if it’s wet, it’s even less. Darker colors in tighter weaves offer more protection, and the best “natural” sun-protective fabric is denim – with a UPF of 1,000!

So wear your jeans and study new sun-protection options, including improvements to what I hope is a staple in your skin care routine – sunblock creams and lotions.

Published on 05/07/2009 | Last updated on 10/18/2018