With summer on our doorstep, everyone has been eagerly awaiting to soak up the sun, peel off the layers of clothing, and spend time in the outdoors having a picnic or braai and dipping into the pool for a cool-down. Before we do, do we know how to adequately protect our skin?
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in South Africa. The major cause is overexposure to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence. It is estimated that at least 75% of skin cancers could be prevented by adequate skin protection in childhood alone. Children should be encouraged, from an early age, to protect themselves from the sun. The application of sunscreen should form part of a daily health routine. With all this knowledge we most certainly should be doing more to protect ourselves, our children and our families.
How to keep safe in the sun:
• Select the correct sunscreen SPF for time period you will be exposed to the sun. A sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 is most common during the summer months.
• Ensure you use a broad-based sunscreen, protecting you from both the UVA and UVB rays of the sun.
• Look at the ingredients in the sunscreen and make sure you not allergic to any of them, its best to avoid fragranced sunscreens.
• If you will be swimming or sweating a lot choose a water resistant sunscreen.
• For children, choose a sunscreen – Baby & Kids Xeroderm SPF40 Sunscreen, that’s safe for children’s fragile skin. Zinc and titanium are considered least likely to cause an allergic reaction in children and people with sensitive skin.
• Check the expiry date of your sunscreen. Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to 3 years.
• Sunscreens alone are not adequate protection against the sun. We encourage you to wear protective light coloured clothing, sunglasses and a hat.
• Between 10am to 4pm the sun is most hazardous. Limit time spent in the sun during these times.
How to best apply sunscreen:
• Remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas, including areas such as your face, neck, lips, ears and the top of your feet.
• Remember to apply sunscreen generously and often. You should apply at least 1 mm of sunscreen to exposed areas.
• Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before exposure to the sun and should be reapplied every 90 minutes, depending on your SPF selection.
• Lastly sunscreen should be applied every day. Get into the habit of using an SPF 15 daily.
Common sun myths:
People with dark skin are already protected from the sun.
Darker skin may have more natural protection than lighter skin, but still needs protection.
In order for sunlight to cause skin cancer, you must get sunburnt.
Sun damage builds up with each exposure, so even if you do not burn, sun damage is still taking place.
The sun cannot hurt you if it is cloudy, foggy, shaded or winter.
Up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate light clouds, mist and fog. Sun damage also occurs during winter, the shade, near reflective surfaces and through your car’s windshield.
You need natural sunlight to maintain good health.
UVB rays help produce vitamin D in the skin, which strengthens your bones. However 10 minutes of sun exposure a day is adequate.
Sun damage is only temporary, resting your skin between sun exposures, erases the damage.
Sun damage is cumulative. The skin can repair superficial damage such as the redness and soreness from sunburn, but the underlying damage remains. Damage builds up over 10 – 30 yeas of exposure to the sun.
You are safe from the sun as long as your body is submerged in the water.
You can still get sunburn even when underneath water. When swimming or snorkeling for a long period, it is best to wear clothing that covers your arms, back and upper thighs, and to wear water resistant sunscreen.
With everyone heading down to the beach, always remember to practice safe sun protection. The daily application of sunscreen also keeps your skin looking younger and healthier. Let’s all practice safe sun protection this summer. After all you only get one skin.