Hats can offer good sun protection for the head and for the eyes. The head and neck get almost continual sun exposure even in winter.
Hats with a downward slanting brim protect the face and neck as the sun approaches the horizon. A hat with a wide brim can significantly reduce UV-B exposure when the sun is directly overhead. Best protection is offered by a hat with a brim of 3 inches or greater. Broad brim hats provide better protection than small brim hats. Small-brim hats (less than 1 inch) provide minimal protection for the nose and chin. A hat with brim greater than 3 inches (broad brim) provides a sun protective shield for the nose, chin, top of ears, and neck.
Choose hats that are made from tightly woven or felted dense material. Avoid hats with large holes in the fabric weave. The top and brim of a loosely woven straw hat or light mesh hat should have a sun-proof liner.
Baseball caps with transparent mesh backs for comfort are better than nothing, but obviously do not provide coverage for the ears, neck, and scalp.
Don't forget about the neck! Long hair can provide sun protection. Neck drapes with hats are one style option. French foreign legion style hats cover the neck.
A hat with a drape to extend across the face provides a good amount of protection.
Some hats are made for sun protection with fabric tested to have a high UPF rating. For good sun protection, select a hat tested UPF 30 or higher. Lightweight plastic hats are commercially available and designed specifically to provide a physical block to UV radiation.
A scarf is a handy item to keep on hand at all times to avoid unplanned exposure to sunlight. A scarf can be worn as a face-shielding mask.
UV Facial Masks
Facial masks are available for purchase from specialty sun protection sites and from outdoor sporting goods shops. Some are fabric bandana or tube style. Others are clear or smoky plastic visors.
Sunglasses can protect the eyes from UV light. Choose sunglasses blocking 99-100% of UV rays. Labels saying "UV absorption up to 400nm" provide 100% UV absorption. Select your sunglasses based on the label and NOT by price or lens color. Wraparound style sunglasses provide additional protection by stopping sunlight from the sides.
Keep your hat on: Headwear is back, Skin Cancer Foundation, 2013.
A Guide to Sunglasses, Glaucoma Research Foundation, reviewed on April 16, 2013.
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