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Sun Safety: Slip! Slap! Slop!

The American Cancer Society recommends a 3-prong approach to sun protection. They suggest that you follow these simple tips:

"Slip" on clothes made of tightly woven fabrics,
"Slap" on a hat or hood to shade face, neck and ears,
"Slop" on 15+ SPF sunscreen.

Now you're ready for swimming or splashing around on the beach for extended periods.

The UPF Classification System

UPF RatingUV ProtectionUV Blocked
15, 20Good Protection93.3% to 95.8%
25, 30, 35Very Good Protection95.9% to 97.4%
40, 45, 50, 50+Excellent Protectionover 97.5%
Source: Australian Radiation Laboratory

Isn't Just Sunscreen Enough?

No. Clothing is recommended because it can reduce exposure to a broad spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. While sunscreen remains an important part of a balanced sun protection plan, many organisations such as the American Cancer Society, the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend wearing tightly-woven protective clothes.

Sunscreen originally blocked only UVB rays, the ones that cause a tan or sunburn. UVA rays were thought to be safe, but a few years ago scientists learned that UVA rays are dangerous. Now most sunscreens block some UVA rays, but not all of them, and scientists still don't know whether the most dangerous UVA rays are being blocked.

Sunscreen may contribute to Skin Cancer

Recent research suggests that sunscreen may not prevent melanoma, and may even contribute to the increase in melanoma rates because it gives a false sense of security and it allows people to stay out in the sun longer and be subjected to more damaging sun rays. In fact, melanoma rates have increased dramatically since sunscreens became popular.

Research indicates that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to achieve the desired SPF, and in practical use often achieve an SPF protection equivalent to between 3 and 7. The average adult needs to apply more than one ounce per application and frequent reapplication is required. And sunscreen is hard to apply properly; it is easy to miss a spot and end up with sunburn!

Sunscreen Effectiveness

Water, wind, heat, humidity, and altitude can decrease sunscreen's effectiveness and it rubs off, sweats off, rinses off and fades away making it necessary to reapply regularly. Studies also show that many people apply sunscreen after sun exposure begins and may take up to one hour to apply it to their children.

Since sunburn can occur within minutes, a large quantity of sunscreen must be applied to all family members before going outside. Besides the expense of trying to use sunscreen effectively, it is often a hassle; especially with small children!

In addition, sunscreen is chemical based, protective clothing is not; the tight weave of the material provides the sun protection. A small percentage of people may be sensitive or allergic to some of the active ingredients in sunscreens. Furthermore, experts recommend that parents refrain from using sunscreen on infants under 6 months old and instead rely on protective clothing and keep them out of direct sunlight.

For all these reasons, it makes sense to wear protective clothing, the sunscreen that never wears off!

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