|SUNBURN / TANNING MYTHS EXPOSED
METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
We are about to enter into the summer season. That means more people than ever will be exposing themselves to
the sun's rays and tanning beds over the next several months. There are several misconceptions about sunburns
and tanning that will be exposed in this essay. I will go through several of these misconceptions one by one.
1. Have you wondered if you can get sunburn or tan through a window? A window acts like a sunscreen. It does
not block all the UV radiation but it does block the most dangerous wavelengths of UV radiation. Glass absorbs
short wavelength ultraviolet light, but it does pass 350 to 400 nanometer ultraviolets. While this longer
wavelength ultraviolet is less harmful than the shorter wavelength variety, you can still tan or burn if you
get enough exposure. You will burn much more quickly when driving with the windows down and exposed to the
sun as compared to driving with the windows up and exposed to the sun.
2. It is erroneously thought that a tan is healthy and protects you from sunburn. In actuality, a tan results from
the body defending itself against further damage from UV radiation. A tan does somewhat
protect the body from the sun, BUT a tan
over white skin acts only as about an SPF 4 sunscreen. A tan may look beautiful, but that does not mean the skin
is healthier than non-tanned skin. Sunburns greatly increase the risk of skin cancer, wrinkles, freckled skin and
leathery skin later in life. The use of tanning beds and laying out in the sun results is long term damage to the
skin if done for several years (especially fair-skinned people).
3. It is an incorrect notion to think that if the skin feels cool it will not sunburn as quickly. Although a cool
breeze, swimming, or cooler temperatures will make the skin feel more comfortable, it is getting the same dose of
UVV radiation as when the wind is light and temperatures are hot. Some people make the mistake of staying out in
the sun longer since they don't feel hot. Then they go inside and realize they overexposed themselves.
4. Another myth is thinking that taking breaks while sunbathing reduces the chance for sunburn. In actuality,
sunburning exposure is cumulative during the day.
5. You may have heard this: "you can get a sunburn just as quickly on a cloudy day as compared to a sunny day".
In many cases this is completely false. On an overcast day, especially an overcast rainy day, the amount of
UV reaching the surface is significantly reduced. Any overcast conditions will reduce UV radiation reaching
the surface. With this said, partly cloudy conditions do NOT reduce the sunburn risk much. Some people make
the mistake of staying outside longer when there is cloud cover. This increased time can make up for the fact
there is less UV radiation reaching the surface. This mistake is worst on a partly cloudy day.
6. It is sometimes erroneously thought that water is a sunblock. Shallow water offers minimal protection from UV,
and reflections from water can enhance the UV exposure also.
7. Sunblock is not a perfect protection from the sun. It is easy to miss spots on the skin when putting on
sunblock. The sunblock does not protect the eyes. Some people make the mistake of staying out in the sun much
longer when they have the sunblock on. Given enough time, the skin will burn even with sunblock on. This is
especially true if sweat and swimming wear off the sunblock effects.
Remember to practice safe sun this summer.