Sun Safety: Got You Covered! -Part III

True or False:  Water reflects more UV than snow.

The answer is False.  Snow is a better reflector of light in all wavelengths (visible and UV) than water.  Fresh snow can reflect as much as 80-90%, while water reflects less than 25% on average. - Albedo

Many times we will find ourselves outside in an environment where the area around us conspires to increase our risk of skin damage.  The last Sun Safety blog, Fan of the Tan, reviewed risk factors that put you at greater risk for sun damage.  This installment will cover what you can do to protect yourself. 

While you can’t change who you are and many times you can’t change where you live, you have control over what you do.   What can you do to protect yourself?  Initially, limit the number and duration of high risk activities such as sunbathing or using tanning booths.  Also, limit exposure.  Try to schedule activities or work before 10am and after 2pm when the sun’s rays are least intense.  If you are working during that time, take breaks in the shade or bring shade with you on the job.

Factoid:  If you're unsure about the sun's intensity, take the shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are the day's strongest. – OSHA Protecting Yourself in the Sun

When you are outside, the American Cancer Society advises to Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!

  • Slip on a shirt:  Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you're out in the sun.
    • A thin white t-shirt has a SPF of about 4.  Darker colors absorb more UV.
    • Choose comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics that you can't see through when held up to a light.
    • Test your fabric: Place your hand between a single layer of the clothing and a light source.  If you can see your hand through the fabric, the garment offers little protection.
  •  Slop on sunscreen:  Use sunscreen and lip balm with UVA & UVB protection and a SPF of 30 or higher.
    • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV and SPF 30 blocks 97% - SPF doesn't determine the length of protection, just the amount of UV that is blocked.
    • Two types of Sunscreen
      • Chemical UV Absorbers
        • Chemicals that work like a sponge on your skin to absorb UV for a set amount of time
        • Needs time to bond with skin; does not work right away
        • Harder to rub off
      • Physical Reflectors
        • Tiny metals that work like aluminum foil to reflect UV away from your skin
        • Doesn't need time to bond with skin; works right away
        • Easier to rub off
    • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to unprotected skin at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities.
    • Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating.
  • Slap on a hat:  Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck.
    • If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.
  • Wrap on sunglasses:  Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes.
    • UV can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, blindness and melanoma of the eye.
    • Wear large sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV rays.
    • Lenses don't have to be dark or expensive - Look for lenses labeled UV 400 or ANSI Z80.3.

There are exposures, both at and outside of work, so regardless of the exposure; take steps to understand your skin cancer risk factors, reduce your risk, and Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!

Want to know more about Sun Safety, register for MEMIC's Sun Safety webinar here.


Sun Safety: Just the Facts -Part I
Sun Safety: Fan of the Tan? -Part II