UV Index Scale

Sun Safety: How Long Does it Take to Burn?

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The UV Index tells you how quickly your skin will burn without protection from the Sun. Check out the UV Index and the UV forecast for your area below.

What is the UV Index?

The ultraviolet (UV) index is a scale that represents the intensity of UV radiation produced by the sun. The index was originally created by Canadian scientists in the early 1990s and has since been adapted for use throughout the world. The UV Index also recommends “Actions to Take”—such as wearing sunscreen and a hat—to avoid getting burned.

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measure ultraviolet levels on a daily basis, and use these numbers to create daily exposure forecasts.

See the UV Index forecast for your area by visiting the EPA website or entering your zip code below (the information will open in a new tab). 

UV Index Scale

“Time to Burn” and “Actions to Take” apply to people with fair skin that sometimes tan but usually burn. People with lighter skin need to be more cautious. People with darker skin may be able to tolerate more exposure. Note that reflections off of snow, water, and white sand can nearly double UV strength.

UV Index Number Exposure Level Time to Burn Actions to Take
0, 1, 2 Low 60 minutes Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen; wear sunglasses on bright days
3, 4, 5 Moderate 45 minutes Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours; wear a hat and sunglasses; seek shade during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when the sun’s rays are most intense
6, 7 High 30 minutes Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours; wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a long-sleeved shirt and pants if practical; seek shade during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when the sun’s rays are most intense
8, 9, 10 Very High 15-25 minutes Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours; wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a long-sleeved shirt and pants if practical; seek shade during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when the sun’s rays are most intense; limit time outdoors
11 or higher Extreme 10 minutes Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours; wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a long-sleeved shirt and pants if practical; seek shade during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when the sun’s rays are most intense; limit time outdoors

Source: EPA UV Index 

The Shadow Rule

Follow the EPA’s Shadow Rule to estimate how much UV radiation you are being exposed to:

  • If your shadow is longer than you are tall, UV exposure is lower.
  • If your shadow is shorter than you are tall, UV exposure is higher and you should take necessary precautions.

Combating Sunburns

Sun safety is all about prevention. If your fun in the Sun does result in sunburn, we hope that these 20 home remedies for sunburn will help provide relief.

Will it be sunny in your area this summer? Check out our Summer Weather Forecast to find out!

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This page was first published in 2008 and is regularly updated.