Photo courtesy of Flickr user Chris Gilmore
With a name like “The Sunshine State,” Florida certainly has a well-earned reputation as a target for UV rays and the corresponding skin damage and premature aging that accompany them. On the whole, Florida is a fairly sun-soaked place, but different regions of the state receive different levels of sunlight.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s map of average daily sun exposure, everyone in Florida lives within a Level 5, Level 6 or Level 7 NREL Zone, with the higher numbers accompanied by a corresponding elevated level of UV radiation. In terms of determining an individual’s risk of sun damage, you might think it’s as simple as determining the zone a person lives in.
But when the staff at Sunscreenr determines where to promote its products, we have to rely on a more finely-tuned process which relies on additional sets of data. In addition to the amount of UV light penetration in a specific locale, we also consider three complementary factors which contribute to the likelihood of the sun damaging a person’s skin.
First, we consider the skin color of the individual. Unquestionably, everyone is at risk to skin damage, no matter how dark their skin is, and people should not assume they are somehow immune to the sun’s rays simply because their skin is dark. By the same token, research demonstrates people with very dark skin may have a natural layer of sun protection equivalent to a level of SPF-11, which exceeds the level of UV protection achieved by individuals with very fair skin who coat themselves with a sunblock or lotion with an SPF level of 10 or lower.
In short, dark skin does protect the skin from sun damage to some degree, and the lighter your skin is, the more vulnerable you become.
Second, we factor in a city’s poverty level. When large segments of a community are struggling to pay bills and feed children, luxuries like skin protection are among the first purchases that fall by the wayside. Therefore, our belief is impoverished living conditions in sun-soaked areas definitely contribute to sun-damaged skin.
Finally, we factor in the “beach culture” or “aquatic culture” of an environment. Cities with cultures built on seaside activities and water sports are more likely to be inundated with reminders to engage in behaviors that protect and nourish skin. Therefore, areas that are further away from the constant reminders and encouragements to lather up with sunblock contain citizens with a greater risk of underestimating the amount of sunlight they are exposed to.
In summation, we find the cities where inhabitants live with the greatest risk of skin damage will have a predominance of fair-skinned individuals, will be situated a fair distance from places where people engage in regular oceanside, lakeside, or riverside water sports and activities, will have an identifiable set of people living in adverse financial conditions, and will certainly be located in a range with substantial exposure to sunlight.
To qualify for inclusion on this list, a Florida city needed to be the home to more than 70,000 residents. The FBI’s 2017 census estimates were then used to acquire the percentages of individuals identified as being “White” or “White Hispanic.” The White Hispanic percentage totals were taken as is, and the White percentages were multiplied by 1.2 and then added to the White Hispanic total. This provided us with a “Fair-Skin Index” for each city.
From there, we added the poverty rate for each city to its Fair-Skin Index total, and then divided that total by two. In addition, we added a UV-danger-zone total to each city based in a more precarious area according to the NREL’s map. Cites in a level-six zone had two points added to their totals, cities in a level-zone had four points added to their totals, and cities straddling the line between level-six and level-seven zones had three points added to their totals.
Finally, Florida cities which were relatively landlocked or situated a significant distance from the coast - a difficult feat to pull off in Florida - had three points added to their scores.
With that in mind, here is what our internal calculations reveal to be the 10 Florida Cities Where The Sun Will Age Your Skin The Fastest.
The Florida Keys - 61.0
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Aaron Hawkins
Compared with most areas of Florida, Key West is sparsely populated in terms of raw numbers. However, if we rope in the surrounding keys and islands and weigh the Florida Keys as if it were a cohesive municipality, it would have tied for the fourth place on this list. When ranked against the forty cities considered for this list, the Florida Keys would have been tied for the third-highest Fair Skin Index score, and the Keys comprise the only region in Florida situated entirely within a Level 7 NREL Zone - the highest zone ranking achieved by any area in Florida. In short, if you find yourself anywhere in or around “The Conch Republic,” you need to use sun protection.
Boca Raton 57.4
Photo courtesy of Flickr user es0teric
Boca Raton may brand itself as “A City for All Seasons,” but its residents should take equal care to protect themselves during all seasons. Having the fourth-highest overall score on the Fair Skin Index propelled Boca Raton onto this list, but having the second-lowest poverty rate of any city we ranked prevented it from climbing any higher than the tenth spot. Sadly, no billboards are permitted in Boca Raton, because a prominently-displayed sign reminding all residents to protect themselves from UV light is certainly advised.
Town ‘N’ Country - 57.8
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Walter
Town ‘N’ Country is the first (but not the last) municipality from the Tampa Bay region to find its way onto this list. It straddles Florida’s two highest NREL zones, has an upper-echelon Fair Skin Index score, and a poverty level slightly below average when compared with many other Florida cities. Our expectation is the people in the Tampa area are constantly reminded of the need to protect themselves from the sun’s rays, but we want to be certain to add our voice to the chorus and provide this additional reminder to use skin protection.
Clearwater - 58.5
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mike Kalasnik
See? We told you there would be more cities from the Tampa Bay area on this list! When Hulk Hogan is the posterboy for what a Clearwater resident looks like, you know the people there spend a lot of time in the sun. With the seventh-highest Fair Skin Index score and a position straddling Florida’s two highest NREL zones, Clearwater managed to lock up the eighth overall position on our list. We know a dark tan is part of his overall persona, but our staff truly hopes the Hulkster will take precautions and lather on some sunblock… Brother!
Melbourne - 58.7
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ricardo’s Photography
Melbourne is known as “The Harbor City” and “The Midway City,” and most of its residents are midway to a sunburn simply by living there. Racking up the sixth-highest Fair Skin Index score practically guaranteed Melbourne its position on this list, and an above average poverty rate didn’t help matters. The students at Florida Institute of Technology should definitely slap on some sunscreen before heading off to class… especially if they plan to spend any length of time studying outdoors.
Deltona - 59.3
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Gordon Tarpley
Deltona is the first city on this list to receive points for being positioned a fair distance from the coast, and it would not have made this list otherwise. While neither its Fair Skin Index score nor its poverty rate are sky high, Deltona does straddle the NREL’s two highest sun exposure zones in Florida. Again, we factor in distance from the coast as a cause for concern, and landlocked cities are less likely to consider just how much sunlight they’re on the receiving end of. If you live in Deltona, please take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.
Gainesville - 60.8
Photo courtesy of Flickr user JD Lasica
Gainesville is a perfect example of why these sorts of lists are necessary. “Gville” is about as landlocked as a city can get within the state of Florida, yet it resides squarely within a Level 6 NREL zone. In addition, it has the highest poverty rate (34.8) of any city on this list by far. Throw in an environment full of coeds from the University of Florida who don’t mind exposing their skin when the temperate gets balmy, and you have a perfect recipe for a surprise sunburn. If Florida’s Caeleb Dressel is going to be training outdoors as he continue his relentless assault on all of the national and world swimming records, we hope he’ll take a second to put on some sunblock before practice.
Spring Hill - 61.0
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Richard Elzey
Located about 40 miles north of Tampa, Spring Hill is toward the southern tip of Florida’s “Big Bend.” The entire region is rife with opportunities to enjoy the water, and provides access to some great scuba diving sites. However, it’s equally rife with opportunities to damage your skin by spending too much time in the sun without skin protection. Spring Hill had the third-highest Fair Skin Index tally, and easily placed in the top half of our list. Even though their hometown isn’t quite on the level of our top three, the citizens of Spring Hill should consider what the constant exposure to UV rays might be doing to their skin before they drive up to Crystal River and swim with manatees for the umpteenth time.
Largo - 62.4
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jim Robinson
Returning to the Tampa Bay area for the third time, we find ourselves in Largo, “The City of Progress.” If you live here and fail to use sunblock, Largo might be better known as the city of progressively worse skin. Of all 40 cities we considered, Largo had the second-highest overall Fair Skin Index score, and straddles Florida’s top two NREL zones just like most cities in the Tampa region. In short, if you live in or near Tampa and you don’t make the regular application of sunblock part of your daily routine, what are you waiting for?!
1. Cape Coral - 63.2
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Roland Koenecke
We have an interesting tie at the top of our list, because the top two cities arrived at the number-one spot through very different ways. Interestingly enough, they were also the only two cities on the list that also rank in Florida’s ten most populous cities. First, Cape Coral had the highest Fair Skin Index ranking of any city we considered, with a score of 105.2. Second, it was the only city on our list that unmistakably sat neatly within a Level 7 NREL zone. As a result, Cape Coral arrived at the top spot through a very traditional methodology; it has an abundance of people with very light, vulnerable skin, coupled with a clear path for UV radiation to burn that delicate skin. However, our list considered additional factors, which is why Cape Coral shares the number-one spot with...
1. Hialeah - 63.2
Photo courtesy of Facebook page, City of Hialeah
While Hialeah (which coincidentally also calls itself “The City of Progress” just like Largo) doesn’t have an eye-popping Fair Skin Index score, it was still in our top-ten overall scores at 94.1. That would have barely qualified it for top-ten consideration on most lists, but Hialeah also has double the poverty rate of Cape Coral (26.2 to 13.1), and dwarfed every other city on this list in that category with the sole exception of Gainesville. In this fashion, Hialeah exemplifies what we’re trying to call attention to: People without a ton of disposable income don’t typically spend a ton of cash on products that protect their skin from sun damage, and you add light or white to the equation, those people become perfect candidates for overexposure to the sun without any method of protection.
In closing, while the people living in the aforementioned Florida cities may be at relatively higher risk of sun-related skin damage than people who live in other cities, everyone in Florida should take precautions when they’re outside, because “The Sunshine State” has an assortment of inviting outdoor activities for everyone to participate in. Sadly, the more time you spend having fun outside with friends and family, the greater your chances are of acquiring damaged skin. Whenever you’re outdoors, please make sure you wear the right sunblock or sunscreen. Doing this can drastically lower the rate at which the sun will prematurely age your skin.