All year round, the sun projects harmful UVA and UVB rays that can lead to future health issues for your family if not taken seriously. During the summer months, these rays become stronger and can even easily penetrate through heavy cloud cover. To avoid these UV rays, sunscreen or sunblock is strongly encouraged during the summer months. To protect you and your family from burns and future health complications, urSwim is going to answer some common questions about sunscreen!

What does SPF stand for?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. According to the American Safety Council, the average person can stay in the sun with no sunscreen for FIFTEEN MINUTES before starting to burn. SPF is a multiple of this number to determine how long you’re protected from UV rays. For example:

SPF 15 x 15 minutes = 225 minutes

SPF 30 x 15 minutes = 450 minutes

SPF 50 x 15 minutes = 750 minutes

SPF 100 x 15 minutes = 1500 minutes

What type of sunscreen is recommended?

A broad spectrum sunscreen is recommended because it is more effective in protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. Higher SPF is also important because it can filter more UVB rays than lower SPFs can. For best protection, reapply every two hours due to sweat and reapply even more often if swimming.  For children consider using sunblock (not sunscreen) which offers physical blockers from the sun via zinc oxide. 

Is it necessary to wear sunglasses?

Sunscreen cannot protect your eyes so proper sunglasses are crucial. Most people are not aware but UV exposure is bad for your eyes and can cause cataracts later on in life. Eyes are the only internal tissue directly exposed to UV rays so they should be protected in addition to your skin. Proper UV protective glasses, sunglasses and hats should be worn on sunny days!

When is sunscreen really needed?

Sunscreen is needed at all times during the day, but there are certain times when you should be more aware of sunscreen application and reapplication. These times include:

  • Anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. The sun’s UV rays are most intense between these times
  • When you’re at the beach or by the pool. Reflective surfaces like ice, water, and sand can enhance the strength of UV rays
  • At high altitudes. You’re more likely to get burned while on a hike than while playing in your backyard

Where are the most forgotten places to apply sunscreen?

Most people only apply sunscreen to large areas of their bodies such as their arms and legs, but don’t forget these easily skipped over areas:

  • Tops of the ears
  • Scalp/top of the head
  • Hands, feet and toes
  • Armpit creases
  • Eyelids

(To learn more about the importance of sunscreen, check out American Red Cross’s Too Much Sun is No Fun! which provides a fun and informative summer activity to do with your  little swimmers to learn more about the health issues associated with sun exposure and UV radiation.)