Sun Protection Glossary
AAD or American Academy of Dermatology: The professional association for physicians in America who focus on treating skin diseases.
AAO or American Academy of Ophthalmology: The professional association for physicians in America who focus on treating diseases of the eye.
AAP or American Academy of Pediatrics: The professional association for physicians in America who focus on treating diseases in children.
AATCC or American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists: A technical and scientific society that developed the U.S. standard for assessing the level of UV protection provided by a fabric. The test method is known as AATCC TM 183. It is a laboratory test performed with specialized equipment, either a spectrophotometer or a spectroradiometer. The test covers both UVA and UVB. Results can be given as a percentage UV blocked or as a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF).
Actinic Keratosis: A precancerous skin condition resulting from an alteration in the keratinocyte cells within the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). Actinic keratoses usually appear as small bumps with rough, scaly surfaces or sores. They can be as little as the tip of a pencil or as large as a quarter. If diagnosed early, actinic keratoses can be removed by cryotherapy (freezing), surgical excision, curettage (scraping), by applying a cream (Aldara) or by chemical peeling, dermabrasion, laser surgery, or other surgical procedure. Actinic keratoses are one of the most common skin conditions, affecting over 10 million Americans, being especially prevalent among people who live in sunny climates. Actinic keratoses can be prevented by using sun protection early and throughout life.
Antibiotic: A class of drug used to treat a broad array of illnesses; antibiotics can also make users extremely sun sensitive. Potential problems from combining antibiotics with overexposure to the sun include blistering sunburns, an increased likelihood of melasma and other forms of skin discoloration, phototoxic syndrome, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Avobenzone: An active ingredient used in sunscreens to enhance protection against UVA. Also known as Parsol 1789.
ASTM or American Society for Testing and Materials: A technical standards organization that developed the U.S. protocols for simulating a fabric's life cycle and for properly labeling sun protection clothing and other products made of UV protective fabric. The protocol for simulating a fabric's life cycle is abbreviated as ASTM D 6544 and works in combination with the AATCC Test Method 183. The standard for labeling sun protective clothing is ASTM D 6603.
Basal Cell Carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer in America with well over 1 million cases diagnosed each year. Basal cell carcinoma appears to be directly related to exposure to UV and develops in the lower level basal cells of the epidermis (the top layer of the skin). It often appears as no more than a tiny pinprick or shiny bump on the top of the head, nose, face, neck or chest that bleeds and crusts over. Basal cell carcinoma seldom spreads to other parts of the body but can be disfiguring if not treated early. Treatment is most typically a small surgical procedure performed with local anesthetic.
Cataracts: A cloudiness in the lens of the eye that causes double or blurred vision and sensitivity to light and glare. Cataracts usually form in individuals middle-aged or older and are most often caused by chronic exposure to UV. In America, over 1.4 million cases are successfully treated by surgery each year. UV protection sunglasses can also help prevent the development of cataracts.
Cipro: A brand of antibiotic that can make users extremely sun sensitive. Potential problems from combining Cipro with overexposure to the sun include blistering sunburns, an increased likelihood of melasma and other forms of skin discoloration, phototoxic syndrome, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Collagen: Bundles of protein that are the primary component of the dermis (or middle layer of the skin). Collagen keeps skin filled out and wrinkle free. Some collagen loss occurs naturally with aging; this process is accelerated by exposure to UV, giving skin a thin appearance.
Dermis: The dermis is the middle layer of the skin between the epidermis and the subcutaneous layer. While the dermis contains blood vessels, lymph vessels and nerves, it is mostly made up of bundles of protein called collagen. Collagen keeps skin wrinkle free by providing support. As you age, you naturally lose some collagen but exposure to UV accelerates this process. Elastin is also found in the dermis and, as the name suggests, gives skin it's elastic qualities. Exposure to UV breaks down elastin causing the skin to sag and form wrinkles.
Dysplastic Nevi: Atypical moles. Compared to ordinary moles, dysplastic nevi are larger and flatter with irregular borders and color. While most people have some moles, individuals with more than fifty moles are at higher risk for developing melanoma, particularly if some are dysplastic nevi.
Elastin: Fibers found in the dermis (middle layer of the skin) that give skin it's elastic qualities by stretching and returning to their original size and shape. UV exposure can destroy elastin causing the skin to sag and form wrinkles.
Elavil: A brand of antidepressant that can make users extremely sun sensitive. Potential problems from combining Elavil with overexposure to the sun include blistering sunburns, an increased likelihood of melasma and other forms of skin discoloration, phototoxic syndrome, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Epidermis: The epidermis is the protective outer layer of the skin. It is in a constant state of renewal, shedding older cells and replacing them with newer cells. Basal cells in the lower level of the epidermis move towards the surface. These basal cells divide and become squamous cells, which get flatter and harder as they move towards the surface. Eventually squamous cells rest on the surface, only to be shed and replaced again over a twenty-eight day cycle. The epidermis also contains melanocyctes that produce and distribute melanin, the pigment that gives skin and hair it's color. Melanin ranges from minimal in very fair skin to dense in black skin. Melanin helps to protect the skin against UV-related damage.
Erythema: The reddening of the skin as a result of exposure to UVB, part of the ultraviolet radiation spectrum. Sunscreens are rated on the extent to which they prevent erythema.
EPA or Environmental Protection Agency: The federal agency concerned with environmental radiation in America; publishes the daily UV Index in conjunction with the National Weather Service.
FDA or Food and Drug Administration: The federal agency that in responsible for regulating sunscreens in America. The FDA developed the SPF or Sun Protection Factor program in the early 1970s and has been responsible for managing the program since then. The FDA specifies which active ingredients may be used in sunscreens marketed in the U.S.
Flap Hat: A hat with a fabric neck flap designed to protect the wearer's neck and ears from overexposure to the sun. Also called a legionnaire hat.
Lasix: A brand of diuretic that can make users extremely sun sensitive. Potential problems from combining Lasix with overexposure to the sun include blistering sunburns, an increased likelihood of melasma and other forms of skin discoloration, phototoxic syndrome, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Lupus: A chronic autoimmune disease that can make people very sun sensitive, including both those with systemic lupus and those with cutaneous lupus. The symptoms of lupus are often treated with antibiotics and other drugs that can further increase sun sensitivity.
Lupus Foundation of America or LFA: The leading non-profit organization in the U.S. dedicated to finding the causes and cure for lupus. The LFA's goals are to improve the diagnosis and treatment of lupus, support individuals and families affected by the disease, increase awareness of lupus among health professionals and the public, and find the causes and cure.
Macular Degeneration: A form of vision loss involving a distortion or dark, blurry area at the center of vision or a loss of color perception. Macular degeneration is a result of a physical change in the macula which is in the center of the retina. The cause of macular degeneration is unknown but it is generally believed that exposure to UV may accelerate the disease. Early detection and treatment may delay or reduce the severity of symptoms, however there is no known cure for macular degeneration.
Melanin: Skin pigment. Melanin is the skin's natural defense against the damaging effects of UV. Melanin ranges from minimal in Skin Type I to very dense in Skin Type VI. The abundant melanin in darker skin, types IV, V and VI, absorbs much UV, helping to prevent damage. Melanin is produced and distributed by the melanocyte cells in the epidermis.
Melanoma: A less common but potentially deadly form of skin cancer. Approximately 60,000 cases are diagnosed in America each year with almost 10,000 deaths. Although associated with aging and sun exposure, melanoma can develop at any time on anyone. Melanoma usually starts in the melanocytes of the epidermis and, if not removed in it's early stages, will spread throughout the body. Treatment depends on the stage of the disease but frequently involves surgery and, for more advanced stages, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Parsol 1789: An active ingredient used in sunscreens to enhance protection against UVA. Also known as avobenzone.
Rash Guards: A form of tight fitting swim shirt first developed to protect surfers from developing a rash when sand rubbed on their skin. Also known as rash shirts or in Australia, "rashies". A more loose fitting style is frequently used for sun protection rather than to protect against surfboard rashes.
Skin Cancer: The most common form of cancer diagnosed in American with approximately 1.3 million cases each year. The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Skin Cancer Foundation: A not-for-profit organization focused on skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation, which was founded in 1979 and is based in New York, New York, seeks to decrease the incidence of skin cancer by means of public and professional education, medical training, and research.
Skin Type: A skin rating system originally developed by Fitzpatrick and Pathak at Harvard Medical School. Today, this rating is commonly used by clinical dermatologists in assessing genetic risk factors for sun-related disorders. Skin types range from I (always burns, never tans) to VI (never burns).
Slip, Slop, Slap: Slogan used by the SunSmart public education program in Australia to encourage people to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun by slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat.
SPF or Sun Protection Factor: A program developed by the FDA to rate the level of protection provided by a sunscreen against UVB. A SPF of 30 means that with the sunscreen a user can stay in the sun for thirty times as long as without the sunscreen and produce the same reddening of the skin (technically called erythema). Unfortunately, in practice, this definition has encouraged sunscreen users to stay in the sun longer which was not the FDA's intent. SPF ratings also only provides information about the level of protection against UVB and not against UVA which is now also believed to be involved in aging of the skin and the development of skin cancer.
SPF Clothing: Similar to a sunscreen, SPF clothing provides protection against the sun. For clothing, the protection rating is actually called UPF for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. Unlike SPF numbers, which only rate protection against UVB, UPF numbers rate protection against both UVA and UVB. SPF clothing may also be called UV clothing.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A form of skin cancer. Over 250,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma are reported each year with approximately 2,500 deaths. Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the keratinocytye cells within the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). It usually appears on the areas of the body that have been directly exposed to the sun, such as the face, the backs of the hands, the rims of the ears, and the lips. While easy to remove in it's early stages, if ignored it is capable of spreading to other organs and can eventually be fatal. Treatment typically involves surgical removal of the effected tissue.
Sun Hats: Hats designed to protect the wearer against exposure to the sun. The most important attributes of a sun hat are material and brim size. Most quality sun hats are made from materials that blocks 98% or more UV and are rated UPF 50+. It is also important that sun hats have a minimum brim size of three inches. In addition, sun hats with brims that curve down provide better protection against reflected UV and sun hats with dark underbrims better absorb reflected UV. Even high quality sun hats should be used with sunscreen on the lower checks and chin for complete sun protection.
Sun Protection Clothing: Clothing that is designed for sun protection. Sun protection clothing is typically designed to cover a maximum amount of skin and should be made from a fabric rated for it's level of sun protection. In America, the rating is UPF, which stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. UPF is based on a set of test procedures, specifically AATCC 183 and ASTM D 6544. Sun protection clothing may also be called sunscreen or sunblock clothing.
Sun Protective Clothing: Special clothing that is designed to cover a maximum amount of skin and is made from a lightweight fabric rated for it's level of UV protection. The UV protection rating is called UPF for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is based on a set of test standards including AATCC 183 and ASTM D 6544. Sun protective clothing was originally developed in Australia, where it is regulated by a federal agency, and has become significantly more popular than sunscreen for sun protection. Factors that affect the level of sun protection include fabric weight, weave, color, stretch, wetness and the use of UV absorbers. Sun protective clothing may also be called SPF clothing.
Sun Protective Swimwear: Special swimwear that is rated for it's level of UV protection. The UV protection rating is called UPF for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is based on a set of test standards including AATCC 183 and ASTM D 6544. Sun protective swimwear was originally developed in Australia, where it is regulated by a federal agency. While helpful for all ages, it has been particularly popular for children and is commonly seen on beaches around Australia.; it is currently gaining in popularity in America.
Sun Tan: A sun tan is the result of ultraviolet radiation stimulating the melanocytes (cells in the top layers of the skin) to produce more melanin or pigment. This is a natural defense of the skin to protect against UV. However, overexposure and/or repetitive exposure to the sun damages melanocytes and many other cell types in the skin. Hence, a sun tan is actually a symptom of damaged skin.
SunAWARE: A sun protection acronym developed by Coolibar, SunAWARE stands for Avoid unprotected exposure during the peak UV hours between 10am and 4pm; Wear sun protective clothing, including a hat with a 3-inch brim and sunglasses, and seek shade; Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ to all unprotected skin and reapply every two hours while in the sun; Routinely check skin for changes and report suspicious changes to a physician; Express the need for sun protection to your family and community.
Sunblock: A subset of sunscreens, sunblocks contain active ingredients that act as physical blockers to prevent ultraviolet radiation damaging skin. The two sunblock ingredients currently allowed by the FDA are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. In previous decades, zinc oxide formulations were quite thick and heavy, looking almost like white paint. More modern formulations use micronized or transparent zinc.
Sunblock Clothing: Special clothing that is designed for sun protection just like a sunblock. The protection rating is called UPF for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is based on a set of test standards including AATCC 183 and ASTM D 6544. Consumers should seek sunblock clothing that has been tested for lifetime protection by the fabric according to ASTM D 6544; the highest such rating is UPF 50+. Sunblock clothing may also be called sunscreen clothing.
Sunburn: Sunburn is an acute cutaneous inflammatory reaction that follows excessive exposure of skin to ultraviolet radiation, primarily UVB. Sunburn depends on both your skin type (which determines your likelihood to burn or tan) and the amount of UVB exposure you receive. A sunburn is a sign of damaged skin.
Sunglasses: Originally a form of eye protection, today sunglasses are primarily used as a fashion accessory. Approximately 300 million pairs of sunglasses are sold in American each year. There are hundreds of manufacturers, importers and distributors in America. While all sunglasses filter UV to some degree, not all sunglasses offer the same level of UV protection. Unfortunately, in practice, America has no effective labeling standards for sunglasses to inform consumers about the level of UV protection they are purchasing.
Sunscreen: An "over the counter" or OTC pharmaceutical product designed to protect users against excessive sun exposure. Sunscreens in America are regulated by the FDA which first introduced the SPF or Sun Protection Factor rating system for sunscreens in the early 1970s. The FDA also specifies a list of acceptable active ingredients in sunscreen--there are currently 16 ingredients on this list. Most active ingredients are chemical absorbers such as ocytl methoxycinnamate (OMC), homosalate or octocrylene which absorb UVB or oxybenzone or avobenzone which absorb UVA. Other active ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which are physical barriers to UV and so are called blockers or reflectors or diffusers.
Sunscreen Clothing: Special clothing designed for maximum sun protection. May also be called sunblock clothing or sun protection.
SunSmart: A public health program in Australia aimed at educating the community about the dangers of overexposure to the sun and tactics for preventing excessive sun exposure. Originally developed in the state of Victoria in the early 1980s, SunSmart became a nationally coordinated program that used the slogan "Slip, Slop, Slap" to encourage Australians to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. SunSmart's greatest successes have been in the school system in Australia where up to 85% of school age children attend SunSmart certified schools. SunSmart's prevention programs in Australia are credited with stabilizing the rapid growth in melanoma in younger people while a focus on early detection resulted in reduced deaths from melanoma in the over 50 population.
SUNTECT® Fabrics: Coolibar's exclusive line of fabrics that have been carefully engineered and repeatedly tested to provide the most effective, long-lasting protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Swim Shirts: A form of swimwear designed to provide protection against the sun. Similar to rash guards or rash shirts, swim shirts may be slightly looser fitting. Swim shirts should be rated for sun protection with a UPF number--the higher the number the greater the level of UV protection. A rating of UPF 50+ is considered excellent.
Swim Tights: A sun protective swimwear item designed to fully protect wearer's legs from overexposure to the sun. Often used when snorkeling.
Tanning: Tanning is the skin's delayed reaction to overexposure to the sun, specifically UVB. It is the result of an increased production of melanin by the melanocyte cells in the epidermis. Tanning is evidence of damage to the skin, technically termed "phototrauma". In America, tanning was not fashionable until the 1920s when Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel returned from a vacation on the French Riviera with a tan. This changed public attitudes to tanning, which has been popular ever since. Coppertone introduced suntan oil in 1945; the Wolff tanning bed was developed in the late 1970s; melanoma had become the most rapidly growing form of cancer by the 1990s. Today, attitudes to tanning are beginning to change. Many skin care products contain SPF rated ingredients and a number of states have introduced legislation to protect children from using tanning beds.
Tanning Beds: Tanning bed equipment is regulated by the FDA and is typically designed to give off 90 to 95% UVA and only 5 to 10% UVB. However, most scientists and medical experts now believe that overexposure to UVA increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. In May 2000 the Department of Health and Human Services added sun lamps and tanning beds to the U.S. government's official list of known human carcinogens. Despite these rising concerns about the long-term health problems of tanning beds, the tanning bed industry is currently a $5 billion business in America.
Tetracycline: A form of antibiotic used to treat a broad array of illnesses. Potential problems from combining Tetracycline with overexposure to the sun include blistering sunburns, an increased likelihood of melasma and other forms of skin discoloration, phototoxic syndrome, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Titanium Dioxide: One of the sixteen active ingredients approved for use in sunscreens by the FDA, titanium dioxide is a UV diffuser that provides protection across both the UVA and UVB spectra.
Ultraviolet Radiation or UV: A form of electromagnetic radiation that originates from the sun and is invisible to the eye. Ultraviolet radiation's wavelength ranges from 100 to 400 nanometers and falls between X-rays and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum. Ultraviolet radiation is subdivided into three bandwidths--UVA, UVB and UVC. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause a range of health problems including sunburn, skin cancer, immune suppression, macular degeneration and cataracts.
UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor: A rating for the amount of ultraviolet radiation, both UVA and UVB, that is blocked by a fabric. Specifically, it is the ratio of UV measured at a detector with the protection of a fabric compared to without the protection of a fabric. So, for example, if a fabric is rated UPF 30 then it is absorbing or blocking 29 out of 30 units of UV or 96.7% UV. UPF test and labeling protocols for America are described in American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists Test Method 183 and the American Society for Testing and Materials D 6544 and D6603. UPF tests are normally conducted in a laboratory with a spectrophotometer or a spectroradiometer. The UPF rating for sun protection clothing is a very similar concept to the SPF rating for sunscreen but there are some differences. Perhaps the biggest difference is that a person wearing a UPF 30 garment will actually be protected against 96.7% UV whereas most people who use a SPF 30 sunscreen typically don't apply enough and end up with significantly less protection.
UV or Ultraviolet Radiation: A form of electromagnetic radiation that originates from the sun and is invisible to the eye. UV wavelengths range from 100 to 400 nanometers and fall between X-rays and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum. UV is subdivided into three bandwidths--UVA, UVB and UVC. Excessive exposure to UV can cause a range of health problems including sunburn, skin cancer, immune suppression, macular degeneration and cataracts.
UV Index: A forecast that predicts the maximum level of UV tomorrow. Just like a weather forecast, the UV Index is designed to help people plan ahead; in this case, planning for protection against overexposure to the sun. The UV Index was first introduced in 1995 and is published on a daily basis in America by the EPA and the National Weather Service.
UV Protection Sunglasses: Sunglasses that are specifically designed to provide UV protection. While most sunglasses filter UV to some degree, many do not block 99.5% or more UVA and UVB, which is the criteria for UV protection sunglasses. In addition, UV protection sunglasses are typically designed to provide protection against tangential UV that strikes eyes from the side of the face. Protection against UV is important to prevent cataracts, macular degeneration and melanoma of the eye.
UV Clothing: Clothes that are designed for UV protection. The UV protection rating is called UPF for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is based on a set of test standards including AATCC 183 and ASTM D 6544. UV clothing may also be called sun protective or SPF clothing.
UVA: UVA is that part of the UV spectrum between 315 and 400 nanometers. Of the three components of UV, UVA has the longest wavelength allowing it to penetrate to the skin's dermis where it damages collagen and elastin causing wrinkles--leading to the mnemoic "A for aging". UVA also harms DNA and compromises the skin's natural capability to fight cancer. On the other hand, UVA also plays an essential role in the formation of Vitamin D.
UVB: UVB is that part of the UV spectrum between 280 and 315 nanometers. Only a fraction of the UVB originating from the sun passes through the ozone layer to reach the earth. However, even in small amounts UVB is absorbed by chromosomes and cell proteins and is a major threat to skin. UVB accounts for most sunburn--leading to the mnemonic "B for burning". UVB also contributes to other forms of skin damage including premature aging and skin cancer.
UVC: UVC is that part of the UV spectrum between 100 and 280 nanometers. UVC is sometime referred to as germicidal radiation as it can kill microorganisms, including bacteria. The only sources of UVC on earth are artificial as the UVC originating from the sun is completely absorbed by the stratosphere, ozone and atmospheric gases. Few people are ever exposed to UVC.
Zinc Oxide: One of the sixteen active ingredients currently approved for use in sunscreens by the FDA, zinc oxide is a physical blocker that provides excellent protection across both the UVA and UVB spectra. It is frequently a primary ingredient in sunblock. In previous decades, zinc oxide formulations were quite thick and heavy, looking almost like white paint. More modern formulations use micronized or transparent zinc, which is far more cosmetically attractive.