What you need to know about UV

The social pressure to get a ‘summer glow’ and be selfie ready can be huge, but thankfully attitudes to unhealthy practices like suntanning are changing. UV exposure is the cause of 80% of premature ageing, so it’s a no brainer really... the absolute best thing you can do for your skin is to protect it from the sun. 

It’s time to think differently about what healthy skin looks like and how we can prevent damage caused by sun exposure. 

UV radiation: the invisible killer 

UV radiation is known as the invisible killer, and with good reason. Every year nearly 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer, caused primarily by overexposure to UV. UV can’t be seen or felt and is present even on cooler or overcast days. This makes UV radiation especially dangerous; because just 15 minutes of unprotected exposure (when the UV is above 3) is enough to start to cause damage to your skin. 

But what exactly is UV radiation?

Ultraviolet radiation is one form of the sun’s energy. It’s the UV that damages our skin, and a suntan is our body’s protective response to sun exposure - and it’s an early sign of damage. A suntan is caused by the body producing melanin, which is a response to UV exposure that acts like umbrellas for the body trying to shut out UV. But if your skin is suntanned, it is already damaged.

Let’s look at what UV is. 

The sun produces three forms of energy: UV radiation; infrared radiation and visible light.

  • UV radiation is the most dangerous form of energy as it causes sunburn, cell damage and skin cancer. The fact that we cannot see it or feel it means we should be especially cautious and always check the UV index for that day.
  • Infrared radiation is felt as the heat from the sun.
  • Visible light is seen as sunlight.

Did you know? When it comes to UV, it really doesn’t matter how hot or cold it is outside. UV levels are influenced by a number of factors: your location, the altitude, time of day, time of year and cloud cover. UV can be just as high on a cold day as a hot one, especially if the skies are clear. 

Today’s a scorcher…  So, I need to cover up, right?  

Yes, you do. But a common misconception about sunburn and skin cancer is that you need sun protection only when it’s hot, the sun is shining, or it’s the middle of summer. In fact, even when it’s cloudy or cool, you need to make sure you’re protecting your skin.

For sure, the level of UV radiation is likely to be higher in summer than in winter. However, UV radiation and sun damage can happen any day of the year when the UV index is 3 or higher.  

Check your phone’s weather app or download the SunSmart app to check the UV index. If it’s 3 or above, it can do damage so take steps to protect your skin.

The level of UV radiation can still be high even during cloudy days, rainy days, or cold days. The higher the UV rating, the greater the risk of sunburn and sun damage.

What should I do when the UV index is high? 

The UV Index is a tool you can use to protect yourself from UV radiation. It tells you the times during the day when you need to be SunSmart.

The UV Index divides UV radiation levels into:

  1. low (1-2)
  2. moderate (3-5)
  3. high (6-7)
  4. very high (8-10)
  5. extreme (11 and above)

When you’re out and about, make sure to pack a hat, sunnies and slap on the SPF 30+. Don’t forget to grab a cute cover up and seek a shady spot to ensure you’re protected from the UV radiation.

And remember that sun safe behaviours matter every day the UV index is 3 or above. 

Man wearing a hat and a high-vis top applying sunscreen on his face.

Make sun protection part of your daily routine

It’s easier than you think!

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