Sun Safety

Q: What are Ultra-Violet Rays?

A: Ultraviolet rays are a part of sunlight that is an invisible form of radiation. UV rays can penetrate and change the structure of skin cells. There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Scientists believe that UVA radiation can cause damage to connective tissue and increase a person’s risk for developing skin cancer.

SunQ: How can I protect myself from the sun’s UV rays?

A: When possible, avoid outdoor activities during midday, when the sun’s rays are strongest. This usually means the hours between 10AM and 4PM. You can also wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. For eye protection, wear sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV ray protection.

  • Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip-screen with at least SPF 15 – reapplying as indicated by the manufacturer.

Q: When do I need to protect myself from sun exposure?

A: Protection form sun exposure is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays can cause skin damage during any season or temperature. Like previously stated, the hours of 10AM –4PM are the most hazardous for UV exposure. UV radiation is the greatest during the late spring and early summer.

  • Remember that UV rays reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as on bright and sunny days. UV rays will also reflect off any surface like water, cement, sand and snow.

Q: What does a suntan indicate? Why does the skin tan when exposed to the sun?

A: The penetration of UV rays to the skin’s inner layer results in the production of more melanin. That melanin eventually moves toward the outer layers of the skin and becomes visible as a tan. A suntan is not an indicator of good health. Some physicians consider the skin’s tanning a response to injury because it appears after the sun’s UV rays have killed some cells and damaged others.

Q: Not everyone burns or tans in the same manner. Are there ways to classify different skin types?

A: Whether individuals burn or tan depends on a number of factors, including their skin type, the time of year, and the amount of sun exposure they have received recently. The skin’s susceptibility to burning can be classified on a five-point scale as outlined in the following table:

Skin Type

Tanning and Sun-burning History

I Always burns, never tans, sensitive to sun exposure
II Burns easily, tans minimally
III Burns moderately, tans gradually to light brown
IV Burns minimally, always tans well to moderately brown
V Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark
VI Never burns, deeply pigmented, least sensitive
  • Though everyone is at risk for damage as a result of excessive sun exposure, people with skin types I an II are at the highest risk.