Can You Get Sunburned in the Shade?
Yes, you can get sunburned in the shade.
76,000 people in the US are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a deadly kind of skin cancer, every year. To protect against melanomas, people take umbrellas, sitting underneath the shade in hopes of protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Sadly, shading yourself can still leave you sunburnt.
The reason why you can get a sunburn in the shade is due to the way UV light reflects off of other surfaces. You still keep the sun from shining directly on you if you sit underneath a beach umbrella, but the sand on the beach will reflect 17 percent of UV radiation. The same thing goes for concrete, glass, and other bright and shiny surfaces. You’re getting exposed to UV radiation, which will still give you a bad sunburn if you’re not careful.
How To Prevent Sunburns in the Shade
For the most part, avoiding a sunburn in the shade is not that different from avoiding a sunburn anywhere else. You should be wearing sunscreen if you’re going to spend any amount of time outdoors, even if you stick to the shade. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will be sufficient for most people, but you should speak with your doctor to find a sunscreen that works best for you.
If you need an easier gauge of how much UV radiation you’re getting exposed to, simply look up. The amount of open sky you see is proportional to how much UV radiation you are getting. If you’re underneath a retractable awning with no sun coming through, you are receiving only indirect UV rays. Similarly, if you’re in an open field, you are absorbing all of the sun’s UV rays.
Urban areas with lots of tall buildings provide safer shade than a beach umbrella since more of the sun is blocked out. You can also avoid getting sunburned if you stay away from the edge of a shaded area. As a rule, larger shaded areas will be safer than smaller areas.