After Australia, South Africa has the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancer is also one of the most common cancers. With summer in full swing and sun time not optional, we’ve collected all the sun care facts that you need to know before catching some rays.
The Sun’s Rays explained
The sun emits radiation in 3 bands, UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVA – 95% of the ultra violet radiation to hit the earth is UVA due to absorption in the atmosphere’s ozone layer. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin. They do not cause sunburn BUT are responsible for the ageing of skin, DNA damage and potentially skin cancer. UVA rays are present year round, throughout daylight hours and can penetrate through clouds and glass.
UVB – Strongest in summer, UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, tanning and skin aging. UVB rays are also linked to skin cancers. The intensity of UVB rays is dependent on time of day, season and location. They cannot penetrate through glass. These rays are also responsible for the formation of Vitamin D.
UVC – UVC rays are the shortest rays. They are filtered by the ozone and do not reach the earth surface, causing no skin damage.
Sun Care Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t think it’s too late to start wearing sunscreen daily or looking after your skin. While skin damage you’ve caused in your youth may still be lingering , you’re still able to prevent worse damage.
- Do avoid the sun (or at least spending a lot of time in it) between 10am-3pm, when the UVB rays (the ones that burn) are strongest.
- Do wear protective clothing: Sunglasses with a UV400 protection rating, caps and athletic clothing made with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Especially if you’re training outdoors during those times.
Sunscreen Do’s and Don’ts
- Do know your skin type and what sunscreen SPF is best for it. This Fitzpatrick Skin Type quiz helps you figure out what skin type you have. Those with fair skin, freckles, red hair and blue eyes burn the easiest and would need a higher SPF than a dark haired, brown eyed and olive skinned person.
- When choosing a sunscreen, select a sunscreen that bears the CANSA SunSmart Choice Seal of Approval. This means that they are COLIPA compliant and follow these product standards, regulations and safety requirements.
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out so it can absorb. For longer sessions, keep a mini tube or sample packet on you for reapplication.
- When applying, you need about 2 tablespoons or a shot glass for your body and a dollop the size of a R2 coin for your face. This should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming.
- Sunscreen should be used within a year of opening it.
- Use a different sunscreen for your face and body. Get a sunscreen made for the face, especially if you suffer from breakouts. An oil free sunscreen is best for acne prone skin.
- Makeup with SPF is not enough, especially if you’re planning on sitting in the sun for hours .
- Don’t forget your lips. Get a lipbalm that has SPF and apply regularly.
You have a burn, now what?
When you get a burn, the sun’s ultra violet rays have actually killed cells in your skin. The post burn peeling is actually epidermal cells that have formed faster than normal because of injury and are stuck together. (A sunburn is like a second degree burn).
Worse than the burn, blisters and peeling is the DNA damage you can’t see – the damage that speeds up aging and can cause skin cancer.
To heal sunburns you can try:
- Yogurt/ Milk: Both contain protein which may reduce the swelling and the coolness can soothe the burn. If you’re opting for milk, add it to ice and apply using a soft towel. There is no scientific evidence to back it up but it’s a widely used natural remedy.
- 1% hydrocortisone cream: This can help relieve sunburn symptoms like pain, itch, and swelling.
- Aloe Vera: Products containing Aloe Vera won’t speed up the healing but can help with soothing skin.
- Draw a bath: Add either 1 cup of apple cider vinegar or 2 cups of baking soda to relieve the burn. Both Vinegar and baking soda have antiseptic properties and helps cool the skin.
- Anti-inflammatories: This will reduce swelling and help with pain relief.
- Manuka Honey: Honey is known for healing wounds and burns (and scientific studies back this one up). Manuka honey in particular has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties making it the top choice.
If you’re burnt, make sure to stay hydrated and keep your skin moisturized to prevent peeling.