How to Protect Yourself from UV Exposure

Take the proper steps to prepare yourself before going outdoors.

    1. Avoid direct exposure to the sun especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
    2. Seek the shade. However, you can receive a lot of sun exposure as well if you spend long hours in the shade, because UVB rays can reach the skin indirectly. UV rays can bounce back from UV-reflective surfaces like sand, water or concrete. Umbrellas, gazebos and trees provide only limited sun protection. Only deep shade offers complete UV protection.
    3. Wear protective clothing:
      1. long-sleeved shirts and long pants, covering as much skin as possible
      2. darker coloured clothing
      3. clothing made of tightly woven fabrics
      4. clothing with certified UV protection
      5. t-shirts are better than sleeveless shirts
      6. Use a broad-brimmed hat, shading your face, neck, ears and shoulder tops.
    4. Use UV-blocking sunglasses.
    5. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA /UVB) with an SPF of 30 or higher for every day incidental or recreational exposure.
    6. Water resistant types of sunscreen are recommended for hot days or while playing sports, because they are less likely to drip into your eyes when you sweat.
    7. Apply sunscreen half an hour before going out into the sun.
    8. Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of the skin. Also, apply sunscreen to frequently overlooked spots, such as the scalp (in men), neck, ears and back of the hands.
    9. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen. For your entire body, you need 2 tablespoons of sunscreen.
    10. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
    11. Protect your skin also on overcast days. Up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate clouds.
    12. Use an SPF of 15 or higher during long drives in a car. You can get UVA exposure through car glass.
    13. Protect your lips with UPF 30 or higher lip balm.

Protecting Children

It is very important to protect children:

    • Set a good example for them by also protecting yourself.
    • Keep new-borns and babies younger than six months out of the sun.
    • Sunscreen can and should be used on babies over the age of six months.


More about ultraviolet light exposure and sun protection

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a form of electromagnetic radiation and is a major risk factor for most melanomas. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays. Artificial tanning devices are also sources of UV rays.

UV radiation damages the DNA of skin cells. Skin cancers begin when this damage affects the genes that control skin cell growth. Skin damage starts early in childhood, so it’s especially important to protect children.

Limiting the amount of UV exposure during outdoor activities is one of the most important steps in the prevention of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer as well as prevention of skin ageing.

Sun exposure can be of different types:

  • Unintentional or incidental: during routine daily activities outside on sunny days.
  • Recreational: during recreational or sports activities outdoors (swimming, mountaineering, tracking, golf, tennis, cycling, running, walking, fishing, gardening, skiing, other outside sports activities).
  • Occupational: in people working outside professionally (farmers, physical workers, workers in masonry, construction, postal workers, licensed drivers, gardening, etc.).
  • Intentional: with the aim of getting a suntan (sunbathing, tanning in artificial sunbeds).

A tan

Sun tanning is the process whereby skin colour is darkened as a result of exposure to UV radiation from natural sunlight or from tanning lamps (sunbeds). The skin pigment, melanin, is produced by skin cells called melanocytes, protecting the skin by absorbing UV radiation. Production of melanin is as a result of sustained skin cell damage by UV radiation. The harmful effect of UV radiation on the skin has a snowball effect. The cumulative damage leads to premature skin ageing (wrinkles and brown spots) as well as skin cancer. So a tan is never healthy. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product.


Red, painful skin that feels hot to the touch usually appears within a few hours of too much sun exposure or exposure to tanning lamps. It may take several days or longer to fade. Each sunburn can cause long-lasting damage to the skin, increases the risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers and accelerates the skin’s ageing process. The sun can also burn the eyes. Don’t get burned.

Artificial tanning devices

UV radiation from these devices poses serious health risks. Tanning in sunbeds can cause skin cancer and premature skin ageing. People who first use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies tanning beds and tanning lamps in its highest cancer risk category – carcinogenic to humans.