Sun: It’s great, but wait

Soaking up rays can be a delight, especially after a long winter. Like anything else, balance is important.

Sunlight releases hormones (serotonin) in the brain that are calming and improve mood. It can lift people out of depression.

Sunlight also is a plus in building stronger bones because sun on the skin helps create vitamin D. For some people exposure is a treatment for skin issues and sunlight/being outdoors has benefits in limiting risks to some cancers.

Still, getting too much of a good thing can be hazardous. The World Health Organization (WHO) says getting 5-15 minutes of sunlight on arms, hands and face two or three times a week is enough to boost vitamin D production.

Too much exposure has the obvious impact of sunburn, but there are even more dangers. The American Cancer Society estimates there are 5 million cases of basal and squamous-cell skin cancers diagnosed annually. It is estimated there were over 76,000 cases of deadly melanoma, another skin cancer, diagnosed in 2016 in the United States.

So let’s take a little quiz on sun protection knowledge

Click the link and test your awareness:

The quiz is a sobering contradiction of sun security many of us have relied on. The WHO lists ultraviolet (UV) radiation as a human carcinogen.

There are three types of UV rays. UVA is a long wave radiation that can penetrate deep into the skin’s thickest layer, the dermis. UVA is present year-round and can penetrate clouds, glass and many fabrics. Short wave UVB rays burn the top layers of your skin. UVB is strongest from April to October and between the hours of 10 a.m and 4 pm. UVC, meanwhile, is the deadliest of all, but can’t penetrate the earth’s ozone layer.

Yes, there are strategies and helps that allow us and our friends to enjoy the outdoors. Let’s take a look.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has some simple recommendations. These include:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses offering UVA and UVB protection as well as having a wrap design.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or higher.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

So, let’s take a closer look at how Staples can help.


This is a case where the highest SPF number isn’t necessarily the best. Most health organizations say anything over SPF50 is pointless and may actually be more dangerous to a person’s health due to the additional chemicals involved. Australia and the American Academy of Dermatology don’t recommend anything over SPF30.

Consider that the sunscreen is formulated for UVB, and has limited impact on UVA rays. A broad spectrum sunscreen will offer some UVA skin damage protection.

SPF50 blocks 98% of the UVB rays and SPF 15 blocks 93%. Considered another way, if it takes 20 minutes for the skin to redden without sunscreen, it would take five hours with SPF15. Protection increases 15 times.

The sunscreen should be water and sweat resistant. Sweatproof and waterproof are no longer permissible marketing terms. Companies can claim to be water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes. Then it is time to reapply. Sunscreen sticks are helpful for application to faces, especially if a person is sweating a lot.
PABA-free lotions are the best choices. Zinc oxide is rated the most effective protection ingredient. Some newer formulations use smaller particles that reduce the white look, but also reduce effectiveness and can cause other health problems. Titanium dioxide is another ingredient proven effective in sunscreens.
Many good SPF30 products are available in single or multiple application containers. Single packs are a great event item. Allow participants to use as many as possible, including for later applications at extended events. Sunscreen should be applied liberally.
The active ingredients in sunscreen deteriorate over time. If the sunscreen is three years old or older, replace it. High temperatures over time can also make it less effective.

Lip balms:

Skin on your lips is thinner and more delicate than facial skin. It is more susceptible to burns, wind damage and chapping. SPF15 chapsticks are a good choice, readily available and economical. In addition to standard products, natural and medicated options are also available.


It is good to look for UV400 protection. These offer virtually 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays. These can be plastic and inexpensive. Polycarbonate plastic is more scratch resistant than some plastics. It has a little higher cost that is often worthwhile. The highest cost sunglasses use expensive frame and lens materials, resolution improvement coatings and have brand names.

The darkness of the tint does not make a difference, as long as the sunglasses offer UV400 protection. Health experts advise that even children benefit from use of sunglasses. Keep in mind that UV rays don’t care if it is cloudy or not.


Unlike sunscreens, UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is the standard used for apparel. The highest level available is UPF50+. UPF50 provides 98% protection. A rating of UPF30 or more is recommended. Most summer clothing has protection that is much lower than SPF30 sunscreen. A t-shirt has a UPF9 rating and that drops to UPF5 when worn a lot.

A good protective fabric isn’t heavy or stiff, it can be moisture-wicking, breathable, stretchy, colorful, lightweight and have other appealing qualities. The advantages include that it can’t be badly applied, rinsed or sweated off like a sunscreen.


UPF ratings are important here, too. In addition, caps with wide brims are helpful. Fun choices in this category include bucket hats and Panama-style hats. Baseball and runner-style caps can also provide sun protection.
For those especially sensitive or people who may be out for a long time, there are umbrellas, awnings and spectator tents available.


There are many ways for us to get burned. Aloe vera-based lotions won’t eliminate a sunburn, but can reduce the pain.
A final word of warning. Tanning is a risky pursuit. Tanning beds are a class 1 carcinogen and using them won’t protect you from later exposure to harmful UV rays.

For more insights on Sun Safety, check out these great resources: