Prevention
SLIP! SLOP! SLAP! WRAP!

To help you remember some of the basic sun safety tips, the American Cancer Society has adopted this simple message created in Australia: Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap!
  • SLIP on a shirt. Clothing is one the most effective protections against UV radiation. Keep the following tips in mind:
    • Long-sleeved shirts and long pants offer the best protection.
    • A tight weave, such as the cotton knit of a t-shirt, offers more protection than a loose weave. For a rough idea of a fabric's ability to block UV rays, hold it up to the light. Fabrics that allow more light to come through will probably let more UV radiation through as well.
    • Dark colors are more absorbent and less reflective than light colors, and so offer better protection.
    • Dry clothing is more protective than wet.

  • SLOP on sunscreen. Sunscreens absorb, reflect, or scatter most – but not all – UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. Look for sunscreens with the following features:
    • Broad-spectrum protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
    • A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. SPF measures how long a product protects the skin from UVB rays before it starts to burn, compared to how long it takes to burn without protection. If you start to burn in 10 minutes without protection, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically will prevent you from burning 15 times longer – about 2 1/2 hours.
      An SPF of 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. SPFs of 30 and higher block 97% of UVB rays and are suggested for people who are sun-sensitive, have skin cancer, or are at a high risk for developing skin cancer.
    • A "waterproof" feature, if you will be sweating or swimming.
    • A valid expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years. Some sunscreen ingredients can degrade and lose their effectiveness over time, particularly when exposed to extreme temperatures.

      Sunscreen tips

      • For maximum effect, generously apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. The average adult needs about one ounce of sunscreen to cover the arms, legs, neck and face of the average adult.
      • Don't forget to protect your lips with either sunscreen or a lipscreen.
      • To maintain the SPF, reapply sunscreen every two hours and right after swimming. Remember that sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, sweat, or spend long periods of time in the water.
      • Do not use sunscreen on babies younger than six months. Instead, use hats, clothing, and shade to protect small babies from the sun.
      • Keep in mind that sunscreen is only part of a sun safety program and not a substitute for avoiding sun exposure. Combine sunscreen use with other sun protection options, such as covering up, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and staying in the shade.

      Sunblocks physically deflect UV rays and are recommended for people who are out in intense, prolonged sun, including outdoor workers and people involved in recreational activities such as boating or mountaineering. Apply sunblock to sensitive, exposed areas such as the bridge of the nose and tops of the ears. To get this benefit, the label should include the words “zinc oxide” or “titanium oxide” as examples.

  • SLAP on a hat. For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim wide enough to shade your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Look for hats made of tightly woven fabrics, such as canvas. Avoid loose weaves, particularly straw hats with holes that allow sunlight through.

    If you prefer to wear a baseball cap, make sure to protect your ears and the back of your neck. Wear clothing that covers those areas, use sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or stay in the shade.

  • WRAP on sunglasses. Sunglasses protect your eyes, your eyelids, and the delicate skin around your eyes from UV rays. They also reduce the risk of cataracts.
    • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requires that sunglasses block a minimum of 50% of UVA and 70% of UVB rays. Glasses labeled "meets ANSI requirements" or "UV absorption up to 400 nm" provide 99 to 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays. Glasses labeled "cosmetic" block 70%. Avoid buying sunglasses that carry no label.
    • Darker sunglasses or polarized lenses don't necessarily offer more UV protection. UV protection is provided by a chemical that makes up part of the invisible coating on the lenses, regardless of how dark they are.
    • Wraparound sunglasses prevent UV rays from entering your eyes from the sides.
    • Don't buy "toy sunglasses" for your children. Look for the same UV protection in children's sunglasses as you would in adult glasses.

Other Important Sun Safety Tips

  • Certain medications increase your photosensitivity, or sensitivity to the effects of the sun. Check with your prescribing physician to see if your medication(s) are in this group. A partial list is provided under Medications that Increase Photosensitivity.
  • Herbal remedies such as St. John's Wort also cause photosensitivity. Always check the labels of complementary and alternative remedies and medications for possible side effects.
  • Pregnancy can increase your sensitivity to the effects of the sun.
  • Reflective surfaces such as snow, water, sand, and concrete increase your exposure to UV radiation.
  • Travel to tropical or semi-tropical locations, where UV rays are more intense, requires special precautions.