NASA has pretty much declared 2016 to be the hottest year yet recorded, so don’t let your skin become a waste of space. Here are some myths about the sun and your skin and how to protect yourself and your family from the damage too much sun can cause.
Myth 1: Darker-skinned people have less need for sunscreen.
Any colour skin can burn. Some people are less prone to sunburn due to higher levels of melanin, which is the pigment in skin that absorbs UV radiation. But it’s thought to offer an SPF of only up to 2.0 – not anywhere close to blocking out the sun’s most damaging rays which penetrate deeper into skin.
So always choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection, in other words, a cream that protects against both UVA rays (responsible for signs of ageing) and cancer-causing UVB rays. As far as SPF is concerned, if you are fair and liable to burn easily, play it extra safe by sticking with SPF50. If your skin is olive toned and tends to tan easily, begin with SPF30 then switch to SPF20. Even if your skin is naturally dark choose at least SPF15. Don’t combine your protection factors. Mixing SPF10 with a 15 won’t give you SPF25!
Myth 2: It’s cloudy, so you won’t burn.
‘Yes you will,’ UV radiation is not felt as heat on the skin, so even on a cool or cloudy day, the radiation may be just as damaging as on a clear sunny day. In fact, 80 to 85 percent of UV radiation passes through the clouds,” says dermatologist and founder of Crème Classique and Safari Suncare, Dr Hardie de Beer.
Myth 3: I’m wearing a T-shirt, it provides extra cover.
Nope, cotton T-shirts provide only SPF10, even less if they’re white or wet – so be sure to wear sunscreen under them, too.
Myth 4: But I need the sun to get enough vitamin D.
It is true that if you are never exposed to the sun at all, you are going to have some trouble with vitamin D synthesis. But really, all you need in order to prevent this is about 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure in OFF PEAK time two to three times per week. So if you bear in mind that most of us only apply our sunscreens once a day (in the morning, to cover peak exposure time), by the time 3pm or 4pm rolls around, you SPF is not really active any longer if you have not re-applied. So most people actually don’t have this problem.
Five golden rules
- Apply a generous amount of sunscreen, about 25ml from top to toe and don’t forget the skin around your eyes which is extra vulnerable to burning. Remember to reapply lotion every two to three hours and after swimming.
- Smooth on your cream a good 30 minutes before going outdoors. That way you won’t miss bits, such as your ears, tops of your feet and your bikini line.
- Don’t use last year’s sunscreen – research has shown old, opened bottles lose their effectiveness. If it’s an unopened bottle, that’s been stored in a cool, dry place, out of direct, sunlight it should last up to two-and-a-half years. Check the use-by date.
- Try to stay out of the sun at midday and don’t forget the wide-brimmed hat.
- Use a sunscreen that bears the CANSA SunSmart Choice Seal. They have been manufactured and tested according to strict guidelines as set out by the International Standards Organisation (ISO), CTFA (Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association) and SABS (South African Bureau of Standards). To see if your favourite brand makes the list, check here.