Grey skies and clouds don´t mean you can´t get sunburn

by Lorraine Williamson
Sunburn can happen after just 10 minutes

In various parts of Spain over the last few days, we have seen high temperatures but also some grey skies. So why are some people are suffering from sunburn?

Don´t be fooled by clouds or grey sky as up to 80% of the sun´s rays will still get through. Shade is a valuable means for protecting yourself against sunburn and the sun’s direct UV rays. Especially if you intend to spend a lot of time outdoors.

You can still burn in the shade

However, just because you are in the shade, that does not mean you are completely safe from sun damage. Indirect UV light can still reach your skin when it bounces off reflective surfaces like sand, water, snow, and concrete. Especially if you are in a pool area surrounded by white buildings.

That is why it is still particularly important to apply sunscreen.

Using only a sun umbrella is not recommended as a place to shade under because most provide relatively little UV protection. In fact, you can still receive up to 84% of the sun’s UV rays whilst hiding under an umbrella. Furthermore, the sun moves and can come in from the side while you are relaxing on a sunbed and not realising.

However, shade, with large spreads of dense foliage, offer much better protection, especially during the middle of the day.

Choose a good hat to protect from sunburn and overheating

Hats are brilliant at protecting you from sunburn and skin cancer too. By wearing a wide brimmed hat and applying sunscreen on your ears, nose, cheeks, and neck, you can really improve your chances of guarding yourself against sun damage.

However, some hats can also make you overheat!

Ensure your hat is straw, cotton, or some similar breathable material – not plastic. Remember the heat escapes through the head. Don´t keep it trapped in.

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Even in the car, or sitting at the window in your house, you are still not completely protected from the sun’s rays. You may not get sunburn, but there is still a risk of skin damage and possibly even skin cancer further down the line.

UVA, UVB and UVC rays

The sun emits UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. The latter is the most damaging, but here it is filtered by the atmosphere and does not reach the earth’s surface as the ozone absorbs it.

UVB rays are the ones that cause the skin to go pink or red and sunburn. However, most glass windows block this wavelength.

However, sunlight streaming through a window can still expose the skin to harmful rays as ordinary glass does not filter out UVA rays. UVA rays are also the ones responsible for wrinkles and early ageing.

Cover up with clothing

Covering up with clothing can help, but if the sun goes right through it, it is not much use. The tighter the knit or weave, the smaller the holes and the less UV can get through.

If your clothing is sheer, or if you have been in the water with a t-shirt on, put your hand inside the garment, and if you can see your hand – the sun can too!

It only takes some people 10-15 minutes to get get sunburn.

It is safe to say the only way to be truly protected from the sun is to be indoors away from the window. Which is why the Spanish have a siesta with the shutters down during the day, when the sun is at its most powerful.

Vitamin D is good for us

However, living is Spain, it is impossible to avoid the sun. Let´s face it, that is why most of us are here. Some exposure has a positive effect on us, but over exposure can be dangerous. Just be aware, apply sun lotion regularly, drink sufficient water, and take plenty of shade breaks. The sun will still be here tomorrow!

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