We're all familiar with the importance of using sunscreen and its sun protection factor rating, which you also know as SPF. However, you don’t usually hear about Sun Protective Behavior and that’s a shame because it’s really the bigger picture in sun protection. Let’s discuss.
Choosing and using the correct sunscreen is easy, because they are readily available and labeled for easy recognition. Most of you know from previous DermTV episodes that you want to choose a sunscreen with a SPF between 15 and 30 with UVA or broad-spectrum protection. You also know to apply it every day, rain or shine, and reapply it throughout the day, especially immediately after swimming or sweating, every 2-3 hours even you are not active.
But what other types of sun protective behavior are there?
First. Sun Protective Clothing. This includes hats with wide brims as well as shirts and pants. Hats are very important, because they protect not only the face, but also areas that we forget to put sunscreen on, such as the top of the ears and the back and sides of the neck. Wide-brimmed hats should have at least a three inch brim to offer optimal protection. In terms of shirts, pants and hats, those made of fabrics with darker colors protect against UV damage better than lighter colors and also, denser fabrics are more protective than sheer or loosely woven cloth. Special ultraviolet radiation absorbing clothing including swimsuits, shirts, hats and pants are made and those garments even have an ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, label. So, a shirt with a UPF of 30 will allow only 1/30 of the sun’s radiation to penetrate the cloth.
Sunglasses are very important as well, not only to protect your eyes, and the skin around your eyes, from ultraviolet damage, but also to protect the crows feet area from premature wrinkling as a result of repetitive squinting.
Last, the time of day that you are outdoors is important as the sun rays are much more direct and potentially damaging between 10 am and 3 pm, so plan your outdoor activities earlier in the day or later in the afternoon. And don’t forget about the shadow rule which says that, “in the middle of the day when you’re shadow is shorter than you are, the sun is at its absolute peak, and the rays are most damaging”.
So the next time you think about SPF, also think about SPB, also known as Sun Protective Behavior.