For decades people have been hearing that the sun can make you old and even kill you. And yet it would seem that people think that scientists are lying about it and it is all just a lot of scare stories. South Africans are still shockingly careless or ignorant about protection against the sun, says the Durban-based dermatologist, Dr Marc Roscher. Be sun smart this year by familiarising yourself with all the necessary hints and facts.
Nothing ages your skin faster than the sun, regardless of suntan cream. And although there are as yet no scientific proof that such creams can stop skin cancer, you must nevertheless always use a suntan cream if you get into the sun. Cansa recommends an SPF30 or higher. The ideal sun screen must protect against UVA rays, which ages your skin faster and increases the risk of skin cancer; UVB rays, which causes sunburn and also promotes skin cancer; and UVC rays, which are filtered by the ozone layer.
● Broad spectrum. Anindication (on SA products) that it also protects you against UVA rays. With European products you must look for UVA in a separate little circle. (UVA protection in creams have not been standardised worldwide, but UVB protection has been.) Look for creams that contain zinc oxide, titanium oxide, avobenzone, Tinosorband Mexoryl SX.
● Water resistant. It also protects you in water. It is not waterproof, however, although it lasts longer in water than ordinary creams. Therefore, apply again after having been in the water. It has also not been standardised worldwide. Look for the words water resistant and extra water resistant.
Did you know?
The shelf life of suntan cream is two years ─after that it is less efficient. Store it in a cool place. In your car’s cubby hole it will be exposed to excessive heat and will not stay efficient for long.Apply 20 minutes before you go outside.
Why is one’s nose the first to burn? It protrudes and is the first to be struck by the sun. Apart from that the skin on your nose is usually more oily, and this causes the sun cream to become less efficient quicker. Other body parts that need extra care,are your hands, feet, ears and lips.
Did you burn?
Cool down under a fast,cold shower without soap. Moisturise with a cream that contains no alcohol,perfume or an oil base. Reduce inflammation by taking an anti-inflammatory pill such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Also drink extra water so that you do not dehydrate. See a doctor if you have serious blisters that have become inflamed,or if you feel nauseous or dizzy.
SPF: Sun protection factor
How long can one be in the sun before you begin to burn? People with light skin can on average be in the sun for about 15 minutes (some more, some less). Multiply this with the SPF figure to know for how long you will be protected.
SPF15 x 15 minutes =
SPF30 x 15 minutes =
SPF50 x 15 minutes =
Water and soap make the sunscreen less efficient. Therefore, apply it again every two hours.
What you have to know about UVB and UVA
If you use an SPF30 sun cream on your face and apply an SPF15 base layer over it, it does not mean that your protection is now SPF45. Dermatologists say the highest SPF that you apply is the highest protection that you can rely on ─ your protection will therefore be SPF30. Half a teaspoon is the amount of sunscreen that dermatologists recommend for your face.
Both UVA and UVB ray scan cause cancer.
● UVB. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and do not penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA rays, but will still burn you. Usually you are more aware of these rays because you feel them.
● UVA. The wavelength of UVA rays, also known as “aging rays”, are longer and penetrate the skin deeper. These rays are around you every day, can penetrate glass and are not filtered by the ozone layer at all.
More factors that can damage your skin
● Infrared rays. The restill is some uncertainty, but some experts think they are harmful. These rays make you feel warm and can come from other sources such as ovens.
● Air pollution of any kind is bad for your skin and can boost early aging. The Highveld has higher levels of air pollution than coastal towns and cities, says the Cape Town dermatologist, Dr Ian Webster. Pollution decreases the natural antioxidants in your skin. Sunscreen does not protect your skin against this type of radiation and it is therefore good to use antioxidant products.
● Beware of sunbeds.Sunbeds fall in the same category as tobacco smoke and asbestos. Research hasshown that you have a 75% bigger chance of getting skin cancer if you use sun beds before the age of 30. It can also cause a rare type of eye cancer, ocularmelanoma. Sunbeds emit ultraviolet rays that are up to six times moreconcentrated than those of the sun, says the Cancer Association of South Africa(Cansa). Visit www.cansa.org.za.
Safe suntan is a myth
Next to Australia,South Africa has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, and most types of skin cancer are caused by the sun. Extra precautions should be taken for children as up to 80% of all sun damage is done before the age of 18. Cansa says that up to 76% of all cases of skin cancer can be prevented if children’s skin is protected against the sun. Even if you have burnt blisters only once during your childhood, it increases your chances of developing skin cancer later in your life. That handsome suntanned look is actually your skin’s defence mechanism when it is exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV).
You can prevent skin cancer
Stay indoors or findsome shadow between 10:00 and 15:00, when the sun is at its hottest. Take care on cloudy and cool days. Always apply a sunscreen and wear a hat of densely woven material. Choose sunglasses with a 400 UV protection and apply a lip balm that also contains a sun protection factor.