How This “Shadow Rule” Can Protect You From Sun Damage

The Shadow Rule

Whether you burn easily or you are resistant to sunburn, managing your exposure to UVR (ultraviolet radiation) from the sun is important. There are times when it’s safer to be outside with minimal protection, and there are other times when it’s foolish to walk outdoors unprotected. It’s time for the shadow rule (instructions below)!

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy way to tell when you need to go the extra mile to add protection versus when you don’t have to worry about it? It’s simple: Watch your shadow.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the WHO (World Health Organization), watching your shadow can indirectly help you determine the sun’s altitude throughout the day. You can use “the shadow rule” to tell you how much UVR you’re being exposed to. Here’s how it works:

  • Is your shadow taller than you? You have less UVR exposure. This is typical of the early morning and/or late afternoon/early evening. You’re safe to be outside with less protection.
  • Is your shadow shorter than you? That means you have higher UVR exposure. It’s time to cover up to protect your skin! Wear a hat and clothing that provide protection from the sun, choose to slather on a safe sunscreen, and/or seek shade or head inside.

In other words, if you have a short shadow, add extra sun protection. It’s such an easy way to determine when the sun’s rays are most intense and potentially damaging.