How to Be Smart About Sun Exposure
It’s January again and skin cancer awareness month is upon us. The most important thing is to understand how much sun exposure is enough. And that no matter the weather, every day is a sunscreen day.
As with anything in life. You need to keep healthy and balanced. And the approach to your sun care routine should be no different. So, if you hibernate away from the sun. It is just as bad as actively seeking a leathery and tanned complexion.
“Having regular, limited exposure to sunlight is not in itself unhealthy. In fact, we need sunlight exposure to activate our vitamin D levels. Furthermore, having regular exposure to small doses of sunlight conveys a limited measure of ‘immunity’ to bad sunburns and strengthens the skin,” says dermatologist and founder of the Skin Cancer Foundation in South Africa, Dr Marc Roscher.
How to Choose a Sunscreen
You may have awful childhood memories of gloopy, white sunscreen that made you sticky, translucent and somehow you still got burnt. Today, the importance of sun care has become so globally advocated. That finding a reputable brand of sunscreen isn’t too tricky.
Requirements that Should be on Your Sunscreen Bottle:
- SPF 30 or higher
- UVA filters such as Mexoryl or Tinosor
- Added antioxidants
- UVA and UVB protection
TOP TIP: If you like to play a lot of outdoor sports. Always use a ‘sports sunscreen’ that won’t run when you sweat. Or get sticky to the touch.
“Ask your pharmacist or dermatologist about which sunscreens are good and how to apply them. Remember that sun-protective agents should be applied daily to sun-exposed areas. Aesthetically pleasing products are much more likely to be used on a regular basis. So look for a product that you like,” suggests Roscher.
If You Have Darker Skin…
One of the biggest problems you may face if you have darker skin. Is the rather milky and translucent look it gives your skin. This is because the residues of the opaque ingredients used, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, sit on the surface of your skin in order to block the sun.
South African dermatologist, Dr Pholile Mpofu shares her solution:
“Use chemical sunscreens that are easily absorbed. For example, oxybenzone and avobenzone. Micronised, physical sunblocks are also not opaque.”
FAST FACT: Alcohol Sprays are more popular with males. As they are less irritating on hairy arms or scalp. But they are often less effective. So you may have to apply them more frequently.
How Much Sunscreen Should You Use?
One of the most basic guidelines for determining how much sunscreen you should be applying every day. Is to use a shot glass’s worth for your whole body. However, if you have high sun exposure during the day. For example from playing sports or going to the beach. Your reapplication will have to be a lot more rigorous than if you’re sitting behind a desk.
“Despite sunscreens indicating that you should reapply after two hours. When going swimming or sweating. Water-resistant sunscreens must be applied after 40 minutes and ‘very water-resistant’ sunscreens after 80 minutes,” notes Mpofu.
Other Than Sunscreen, You Should Also Use…
Rash Vests – Rash vests are very efficient at safely warding off sun damage. And as an added bonus, they feel like a second skin when you put them on.
Antioxidant Serums – Although they can be rather costly, and usually only available from skin care experts. Antioxidant serums have great value as they essentially double up your sun protection when used with sunscreen.
Cosmeceuticals – The benefit of using cosmeceuticals as part of your daily routine is that most products contain a high SPF as well as UVA and free radical protection. So instead of having to reapply sunscreen on your face throughout the day. You can simply touch up your make-up instead.
Understanding Sun Damage
Not only is sun damage a cause for rapid skin aging. But more seriously, it is the main risk for developing skin cancer.
“Caucasians develop features of damage, including sun spots, liver spots, wrinkles and more. Once this damage occurs, they are also more prone to skin cancers,” says Roscher.
However, this does not mean that people with darker skin tones are out of the woods…
“Dark-skinned individuals have what is called ‘delayed sun damage’. Occurring up to 3-12 hours after exposure, in melanin containing skin cells. This is responsible for up to 50% of sun damage to the skin,” adds Mpofu.
Preventing Skin Cancer
1. Avoid Sunbeds
Using sunbed at least once a month increases your risk of skin cancer by 55%, and this increases after the age of 20. Your best bet is to apply spray on or self tans.
2. Plan Around Peak Sun Hours
Remember that UV intensity is determined by the angle of the rays and not temperature. So try to plan your day and avoid being outdoors as much as possible between 10am and 4pm.
3. Don’t Neglect Your Moles
It’s not the most flattering task. But doing regular mole checks after showering is crucial for monitoring any skin cancer developments.