Student's Guide - Ways to Protect Yourself
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Ways to Protect Yourself


How to protect your skin

Sun burning is not a pleasant experience. Fortunately, we have ways to prevent it. Avoiding the sun between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm during day light saving time can reduce your UV exposure by more than 50%. If you have to be outside during these hours, seek shade, wear T-shirts on the beach, hats with a broad brim, and sunglasses, and apply sunscreen of a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15 to all parts of your body that are not protected otherwise.


How do sunscreens work?

A sunscreen works in one of two ways; it either scatters oncoming UV rays away from the skin (physical sunscreen) or it absorbs the UV rays before they can reach the skin (chemical sunscreen). Both methods are effective, though chemical sunscreens tend to only block UV-B, which is mostly responsible for sunburns. Sunscreens that block out both UV-A and UV-B rays, with an SPF of at least 15 (SPF 30 is better) are preferable. They should especially be applied between the hours of 11 and 3, when the amount of UV rays hitting the earth is generally the greatest.

In order to allow the sunscreen to achieve its maximum protection, the sunscreen should be applied about 20 minutes before you head out into the sun. If your intended activity includes swimming or other water-related events, a waterproof sunscreen is best. It should be noted, however, that no sunscreen is completely water or sweat proof. Therefore, more sunscreen needs to be applied after any activity in which these factors are involved.It should not be assumed,however, that applying sunscreen allows you to safely stay out longer in the sun. Sunburn is the body's natural warning sign - eliminating the warning sign does not mean that you have eliminated all of the danger.


What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is the rating that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts on sunscreens that describes how much they extend the time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned. For example, if you can normally stay outside for about 15 minutes before you start to burn, then applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 20 allows you to stay out for 20 times 15 minutes before burning - or rather, 300 minutes. (Of course, that's assuming you apply the right amount and none of it comes off during your day.)


How to protect your eyes

The protection of the eyes from UV rays is actually very simple. Sunglasses with at least 99% UV-A and UV-B blockage do an effective screening job, especially if they wrap around the head. This prevents UV rays from entering from the side. Check the label of your sun glasses when you buy new ones! Does it say that it blocks UV? Older glasses often did not absorb enough UV. If this is the case they may be doing more harm than good. The dark tint of the sunglasses causes the pupils to widen in order to let in more light. If sunglasses are only dark in the visible but not in the UV, actually more UV could penetrate the eyes.


I want a tan, not a sunburn!

First keep in mind that there is no scientific evidence that a tan does any good for your skin. If you still can't withstand the appeal of a bronze-colored appearance, sunbathe responsibly and always avoid over-exposure. Spend small amounts of time in the sun over a period of several days, to give your skin time to start its own built-in protection against UV rays, for example the production of a substance called "melanin". Never risk a sunburn. In addition to itching and skin damage that sunburn creates, sunburned skin will soon shed, and with it goes much of the bronze tan.


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