Dr. Kathryn Dempsey is a board-certified dermatologist who practices in Mobile, Alabama and spends her weekends at Orange Beach. She enjoys teaching about the importance of daily sun protection. Here she has provided some tips on the sneaky ways ultraviolet rays reach us to ensure you stay educated and protected!
Each visit, I ask each of my patients, “How are you doing with your sun protection?” and nine out of ten times I get the same answer: “I don’t go in the sun.” I always take this opportunity for education on the ways ultraviolet rays reach us outside of just tanning on the beach. Most people don’t realize that the majority of our sun exposure happens on a day to day basis, often when we least expect it.
Here are five ways UV radiation reaches us, even when most people think they are safe.
- In the Car. Every time you drive you are exposing yourself to UVA radiation. While the law requires most front windshields to block the majority of UVA and UVB, side and rear windows do not have this same requirement and UVA comes straight through. So during that short (or long) commute to work, you are getting direct UVA exposure, mainly to your left side. UVA contributes to both premature aging and skin cancer. We know that more skin cancers occur on the left than the right and this is because of driving.
- At Work. Many people are lucky enough to have a workspace with windows and if you are working within several feet of one, UVA is reaching you. Remember, UVA penetrates through glass and windows.
- In Shade. We get it when we think we are protected by shade. It reflects off of sand, water, pavement, grass and snow. Studies have shown that sunscreen and protective clothing in addition to seeking shade is significantly more beneficial than seeking shade alone.
- At a Nail Salon. That’s right! We get it when we have our nails done. Did you know that the lights they use to speed polish drying emit UVA? And UVA Is also what is used to set gel manicures. Protect your hands!
- During Rainy Days. This may be the sneakiest way it reaches us and I always see a surge of sunburns after overcast summer days. While clouds may block sunlight, they do not block ultraviolet radiation and some of them even magnify it. Scary!
Did you know that one year of 2 minutes of casual sun daily adds up to 2 weeks of a beach vacation’s worth? And now that you know the sneaky ways that UV rays are reaching you, think about how much you really get – far more than 2 minutes a day. Therefore, it is so important to protect yourself on a day to day basis and this starts with sun protective clothing. I always recommend clothing with UPF 50+, a wide-brimmed hat and a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30. If we all did this on a daily basis, I assure you there would be a lot less skin cancer in this world!