Beating the sun this summer

Summer is here, and with it the promise of long days at the beach, shorts, and sunburn. While for many catching a tan to usher in the summer is quite okay, climate change continues to rear its ugly head. We investigate the recommended skin regime that you should be following this summer season.

“With all the stresses of modern living, with all the things going on in our busy lives, putting on sunscreen is yet another thing to remember before rushing out of the door,” states The Skin Cancer Foundation of South Africa (SCFSA) comprising leading Dermatologists in South Africa.

According to SCFSA sunscreen and sun safety practices should be made a priority. The organization further aims to drive public awareness and education, particularly in terms of sun protection and prevention of skin cancer, as well as UV-related disorders such as photo ageing and pigmentation.

“As Dermatologists, we are coming face-to-face with more and more patients with skin cancer. Skin cancer is growing at a disturbing rate and South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world,” says Dr Derek Odendaal, past president of the South African Society for Dermatological Surgery, and one of the founder members of the SCFSA.

With the above in mind, the following are a few ways you can be sun smart this summer:

  1. Wear enough and reapply: It tends to be tricky when it comes to knowing just how much sunscreen to apply and when. Often people complain about getting sunburnt despite wearing sunscreen. SCFSA says this is because for the most part people do not wear enough sunscreen or simply forget to reapply. It is important to reapply every second hour of sun exposure, activity dependent. Make sure you also lather enough sunscreen on, so as to feel like your exposed body parts have all been covered.

“If your skin usually starts to change colour within five minutes of sun exposure, a sunscreen with an SPF of 20 protects your skin for 20 times as long, i.e. five times 20, which equals 100 minutes. It has been proven, that people don’t use the correct amount of sunscreen, therefore higher SPF’s are necessary for the prevention of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Remember, sunburn can manifest as skin cancer years later. Skin cancer risk doubles with more than 5 sunburns in your lifetime,” SCFSA explains.

  1. Sunscreen is not just for sunny days: “Think of exposure to UV radiation beginning as an empty glass, filling up a drop at a time. Even at a drop at a time, the glass will eventually fill up. If it overflows, you have a problem. Just add up every minute you’re exposed to the sun during a ‘regular day’ and you’ll be surprised how much time that can be,” highlights the SCFSA.

Water, sand and concrete all provide a platform for reflective rays. Protect yourself at all times, even whilst in shade or on a wintery day.

As a rule of thumb, sunscreen should form part of your daily routine.

  1. Invest in a good sunscreen: “Wear a broad spectrum and at least an SPF 30from a reputable brand, and don’t forget your scalp, ears, neck and back of hands. Remember sunscreen is a great first line of defence, but needs to be accompanied by other sun safe practices and minimise the amount of time spent in the intense sun, i.e. between 10:00 and 15:00,” adds the SCFSA.
  2. Protective gear: In addition to sunscreen, other accessories can be worn to further limit your exposure to the sun. These include the right sun hat, sun glasses and potential rash vests.

‘’The right hat reduces UV exposure by 70% for neck and head. Wear certified sunglasses with UV 400 protection. Wear long sleeves whenever possible (preferably black and more tightly woven fabrics),” adds SCFSA.

Sun damage is for the most part irreversible, but can be so easily avoided if you remain sun savvy.