With sunnier days approaching, it is important to remember to protect yourself against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. We should aim to strike a balance between protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful effects and getting enough vitamin D from the sunlight. Excessive unprotected sun exposure can result in skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression and skin cancer. Sun Awareness Week is being celebrated this year from 3rd – 9th May, with the aim of highlighting the dangers of exposure to the sun.
It is easy to forget that sunburn does not just happen at the beach or on holiday! You can burn even when it’s cloudy. Some sun safety tips to keep in mind are:
• To spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest.
• Make sure you never burn. If you do burn, sponge affected area with cool water and apply Aftersun Cream or Aloe Vera Gel. Seek medical help if you feel unwell.
• Cover up with suitable clothing. Darker clothing may offer more protection than lighter coloured clothing. A wet t-shirt is much less protective than a dry one. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer optimum protection.
Sunscreen is an essential part of protecting yourself from UV rays. When choosing a sunscreen, it is best to look out for a label with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB. UVB and UVA are both types of ultraviolet radiation linked to skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply and cause what is known as photoaging, or premature aging of the skin. Your sunscreen should have a 4-star UVA protection rating or more. Ensure your sunscreen is not past its expiry date, most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2 years. Some people may skip the sunscreen for various reasons, for example, they may worry about sunscreen causing breakouts, or even the effect of sunscreen on the environment. There are lots of different options on the market, with oil-free and non-comedogenic sunscreens for those prone to breakouts, to reef-friendly options for those worried about their environmental impact.
In order to receive optimum protection, it is important to apply enough sunscreen. As a guide, you should aim to apply the equivalent two tablespoons for covering the whole body when wearing a swimming costume. The equivalent of two teaspoons of sunscreen is sufficient if you are just covering your head, arms and neck.
With many of us exercising outdoors, we should be reminded that the harmful effects of the sun can occur even if we do not feel the sun rays – up to 80 per cent of UV rays can penetrate clouds! Here are some extra precautions you can take to ensure you are protected next time you head out the door;
• Apply sunscreen according to manufacturer’s instructions.
• Avoid exercising at when the sun is strongest – between 11 am and 3pm from March to October
• Ensure you are adequately hydrated.
• Wear a cap to protect your face/eyes from sun damage.
Even one severe sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your chances of developing the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, later in life. Sun damage builds up over time, throughout our lifetimes. Therefore, UV damage can occur, even if there is no obvious sun burn.
It is important to check your moles regularly for any changes. In order to do this, you should stand in a well-lit room and use a mirror to check your body all over. Ensure that you are able to check hard to see areas such as your back and scalp. When checking moles, key factors to keep in mind are asymmetry, borders, colour, diameter and evolution, firmness and growth. If you have any concerns, make sure you speak talk to your health care provider.