Be Sun Smart: How To Protect Skin From UV Rays

Be Sun Smart: How To Protect Skin From UV Rays

While the weather might not be sunny all year round, it is still important for us all to protect our skin from harmful UV rays. Even on the cloudiest of days, UV rays are present.  Without being Sun Smart or utilising the appropriate sun protection, our skin and health can suffer. Knowing our skin type can also inform us on the precautions we need to take to avoid sun damage. The Irish Skin Foundation notes that most people living in Ireland have fair skin, which is skin type 1 or 2 on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Classification Scale - the lowest on the scale. People at the lower end of the scale are extremely UV sensitive, always burn, never tan and are a high skin cancer risk.  There are three different types of UV Radiation that are harmful to skin:

- UVA makes up the most of the UV rays that reach the earth surface. UVA reaches the deeper layer of the skin and causes skin aging, eye damage and skin cancer

- UVB is mostly absorbed by the Ozone layer and other substances before it reaches the earth's surfaces. UVB causes sunburn and is the major cause of skin cancer

- UVC is mostly filtered by the Ozone layer and other substances before it reaches the earth, but problems can arise if the Ozone layer is thin (over Australia, for example). This allows UVC rays to reach the earth surface and increase the risk of skin cancer to those exposed


We can be better prepared to protect ourselves from UV rays by understanding the risks and myths surrounding them:

- Myth 1: UV rays can be seen and felt 
FALSE: There are rays from the sun that can be seen (sunlight) and felt (infrared), but UV rays cannot be seen or felt, meaning we need to protect ourselves from them at all times

- Myth 2: You only need sun cream in the summertime - 
FALSE: Up to 90% of UV rays can get through light clouds, meaning that even on cloudy days, skin needs to be protected from UV damage. With skin cancer being the most common cancer in Ireland, it's important to protect the skin from UV rays all year round


While spending time outdoors it is important to take precautions to prevent our skin from being damaged. Wearing UV protection glasses, applying high factor sun cream and using a helmet mounted sun cape are just some protective measures. The Irish Cancer Society and Irish Skin Foundation urge people to be aware of their local UV index. In Ireland, we should follow the SunSmart code, outlined below, from April - September. However, if the UV Index is 3 or more extra care should be taken:

uv-index-safety-direct-blog-2021                                                                                         image credit: Irish Skin Foundation


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