Sun Safety Tips

Compiled by Michael Huether, M.D.

Wear Protective Clothing:

Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

Sun Protective Clothing vs Sunscreen:

Does not wash off. Does not need to be reapplied. Is long lasting. Is more reliable in protecting against sunburns since it doesn’t depend on how it is applied.

Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds:

UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.

Generously Apply Sunscreen:

Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin using a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

Reapply Sunscreen:

Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

Seek Shade:

Seek shade when appropriate remembering that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Shadow Rule:

Remember the shadow rule when in the sun: Watch Your Shadow. No Shadow: Seek Shade!

Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow and Sand:

Water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

Watch for the UV Index:

The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun. Developed by the National Weather Service (NWS) and EPA, the UV Index is issued daily in selected cities across the United States.

Get Vitamin D Safely:

Get Vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Don’t seek the sun.

Slip Slop Slap:

Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat when out in the sun.

Check Your Own Skin:

Carefully examine ALL of your skin once a month. A new or changing mole in an adult or child should be evaluated by a dermatologist or skin cancer expert.

Sun Tips:

Excellent information on sun protection can be found at

Skin Cancer:

Approximately half of all cancers in the U.S. are skin cancers. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

Melanoma is Common:

The number of people with the most often deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, is rising at an alarming rate. It is projected that for persons born in 2008, one in 58 will be diagnosed with melanoma - that’s about 20 times higher than it was for persons born in 1930.

Protect Your Kids:

In a majority of studies, researchers have found a correlation between childhood sunburns and the subsequent risk of melanoma.

UV Light Exposure is #1:

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is the number-one preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Taking simple steps now to prevent overexposure lowers one’s risk.

UV Light Overexposure:

Overexposure can cause serious health effects, including skin cancer and other skin disorders, eye damage and cataracts, and immune system suppression.

Use Plenty of Sunscreen:

Studies show that most people use approximately 1/3 the amount necessary to get the SPF protection rating listed on the bottle. In that case, an SPF 30 sunscreen only provides SPF 10 protection.

Don’t Forget to Apply Sunscreen to Keys Areas:

The most commonly missed areas are the ears, lips, back of the hands, and feet.

Apply Sunscreen Before Going Out:

Since it takes 15-30 minutes for sunscreens to begin to work, they must be applied before going outside. For very fair skinned people, that first 15-30 minutes can be enough to burn.

Sunglasses and Glasses:

Be sure your sunglasses have UVA and UVB protections, which should filter most of the sun's rays.

Sunscreen Alone Isn’t Enough:

Sunscreen is only a part of a good program, which includes a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, a long-sleeved shirt and pants.

Any Skin Spot That Changes:

Any spot on your skin that changes in color, size, shape or symmetry should be checked by a dermatologist or skin cancer expert.

What is an SPF?

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on sunscreen refers to the product's ability to screen or block out the sun's harmful rays. For example, if you use a sunscreen with an SPF 15, you can be in the sun 15 times longer than you can without sunscreen before burning. SPF protection does not increase proportionally with an increased SPF number. While an SPF of 2 will absorb 50% of ultraviolet radiation, an SPF of 15 absorbs 93% and an SPF of 34 absorbs 97%.

Waterproof vs Water-Resistant Sunscreens:

How well the sunscreen stays on the skin after swimming, bathing or perspiring is just as important as the SPF level. The FDA considers a product "water-resistant" if it maintains its SPF level after 40 minutes of water exposure. A product is considered "waterproof" if it maintains its SPF level following 80 minutes of exposure to water. If you participate in outdoor recreational activities including swimming, you may want to choose a waterproof sunscreen.

When To Use Sunscreen?:

Sunscreens should be used daily if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes. Most people will receive this amount of sun exposure while performing routine activities.

SPF on Sunscreen Only Rates UVB Protection:

You should look for a sunscreen that also protects against Ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, those rays that penetrate deeper into the skin and are the culprits in premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. UVA-screening or blocking chemicals include oxybenzone, Parsol 1789 (also called avobenzone), mexoryl, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. NOTE: The SPF number on sunscreens only reflects the product's ability to screen UVB rays. A rating system that measures UVA protection levels is being developed.

Sun Tans Are Bad, Sun Burns Are Very Bad:

5 or more sunburns during your lifetime doubles your risk of developing skin cancer.

Melanoma Facts:

Excessive exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. Melanoma has also been linked to excessive sun exposure in the first 10 to 18 years of life. Other possible causes include genetic factors and immune system deficiencies.

Skin Cancer Rates Are Rising:

There were over a million cases of skin cancer last year, and the rates are rising. Sun protection is the best defense against skin cancer.


Sun exposure is among the most common contributing causes of wrinkles. Protect yourself daily.

How Much Sunscreen Should I Take on Vacation?

6 to 12 standard 4 oz bottles! Most experts recommend using 1 oz of sunscreen (a shot glass) per application to cover an adult and reapplying it every 2 hours. A family with 2 adults and 2 children, in the sun 6 hours per day (needing 3 applications of sunscreen), spending most of their time swimming (needing the sunscreen to protect most of their body), would need at least 2 bottles of sunscreen each day (assuming a standard 4 oz bottle or tube). If the family is sightseeing, biking, hiking or golfing, and wearing short-sleeve shirts and shorts, then they need less sunscreen.

UV Light is a Carcinogen:

The United States Department of Health & Human Services has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen.

Indoor Tanning Salons:

Indoor tanning equipment, which includes all artificial light sources, including beds, lamps, bulbs, booths, etc., emits UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to the sun and in some cases may be stronger.

Studies Suggest Tanning is Not Safe:

Evidence from several studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.