Why use a sunscreen?
Did you know that 75% of your sun damage is accidental and only 25% is you deliberately lying in the sun to get a tan?
90% of ultra violet rays come from reflective surfaces, i.e. water, sand, etc. That's why you often burn when sitting under an umbrella on the beach without sunscreen.
About 700 South Africans die of skin cancer a year.
One blister burn could increase your risk of developing skin cancer by 80%.
What is a tan?
A tan is your skin producing colour (melanin) to protect the nucleus of every skin cell in your body against the damaging UV (ultra violet) rays. It does that to ensure the nucleus of the skin cell is not harmed by the sun, if however it fails to do that, we see skin cancer, aging and hyperpigmentation.
Can dark skin burn?
Dark skin and light skin can both burn. Dark skin is just better equipped to deal with the UV rays as the skin deposit bigger amounts of pigment compared to a light skin. In a light skin the pigment is broken down by the time it reaches the surface of the skin, whereas in a dark skin the pigment is still found in the superficial layers of the skin. Darker skin is better protected against UV rays for this reason, but still needs to apply a sunscreen.
How do I choose the best sunscreen for my skin?
Most importantly find a sunscreen that offers 'broad-spectrum' protection, this means it protects you against UVA and UVB rays, not just UVB rays as most sunscreens did in the past.
UVA rays penetrates the deepest layers (epidermis and dermis) of your skin causing hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and skin cancer. UVB rays only penetrates the superficial layers of the skin (epidermis), causing hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. During the winter months we still have UVA rays penetrating our skins, but UVB rays are blocked out.
Look for a sunscreen free from artificial fragrance as these can make your skin more sensitive and even cause photo sensitivity (causes your skin to burn faster than normal). Artificial fragrance can also cause hyperpigmentation over a period of time.
A sunscreen that contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and hydrating ingredients will really benefit your skin as sun exposure causes inflammation, redness, increase free radical activity and dehydrate the skin.
If you do water sport look for a sunscreen that is waterproof as most sunscreens are water resistant, which will protect you for about 40 minutes in the water, but comes off the skin very easily. A waterproof sunscreen keeps you protected for up to 80 minutes in the water.
What else can I do to protect my skin from UV rays?
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes as there is also melanin in your cornea.
Wear a hat that protects your neck and ears as well.
Sit under an umbrella or in a shaded area.
Reapply your sunscreen every 1-2 hours when doing sport or sitting on the beach.
As South Africans we need to apply sunscreen daily to prevent aging, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. Remember when there is light, you need protection - so make your sunscreen application part of your daily skincare routine all year round.