How To Stay Safe In The Sun
How To Stay Safe In The Sun
Summer is here, and with it trips to the beach, hours of fun in the pool or working in your garden, afternoon braais, tennis, hiking, you name it. It’s natural to want to soak up the sun’s rays, and it is important. Our bodies need Vitamin D, and the sun is our best source, but spending too much time under harmful UVA and UVB rays is dangerous.
While you might love the bronzed glow of your skin, tanning is a sign of damaged skin, and it can lead to dry, wrinkled and tired-looking leathery skin.
Or worse, skin cancer. Sun damage is a leading cause of melanoma, and it doesn’t only affect the elderly. People as young as 16 are being diagnosed with melanoma. So how can you take care of your skin while still getting your daily dose of Vitamin D?
Follow these six top tips.
Top Tips for staying safe in the sun this summer
Tip 1: Wear sunscreen and reapply regularly throughout the day
Come rain or shine, winter or summer, you should lather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day. Although it might seem cloudy and overcast, the suns UV rays are more than capable of reaching you. They reflect off surfaces like white walls, water, and snow, and they travel through your windows, so don’t think your skin is safe because you’re inside.
- If you’re light-skinned, with blonde, red or light-brown hair, and burn easily, always use a SPF 50 sunscreen, and be sure to reapply every two to four hours. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. A 50 factor blocks 98% of UVB rays.
- If you’re slightly darker-skinned (Mediterranean), use a SPF 30 sunscreen, and reapply liberally throughout the day. A 30-factor sunscreen blocks 97% of UVB rays.
- If you’re dark-skinned (African), use a SPF 15-factor sunscreen, reapplying every six or so hours.
- For swimming, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. Apply it 15 minutes before going into the water, and make sure to reapply once you step out or every 40 to 80 minutes.
- Children six months and older should always wear a SPF 50-factor sunscreen. Pack a roll-on sunscreen in their school bags and teach them to reapply it during lunch breaks. Unlike a spray bottle or tube, it’s easier and less messy for young kids to use.
Tip 2: Wear a hat
Always wear a hat. But instead of reaching for a peak cap or straw hat, choose a wide-brimmed canvas hat. This protects your face, neck, and ears from the sun’s rays, and it shades your eyes. Straw hats let sunlight in, which can lead to burning, and peak caps don’t protect your neck and ears.
Tip 3: Stay out of the midday sun if possible
Keep out of the sun between 10 am and 3 pm. This is when the sun is at its strongest. During this time, find a shady nook and read a book, or relax inside. If you must venture out, cover up and apply 50-factor sunscreen.
Tip 4: Cover up
Particularly if you’ll be spending a long time in the sun, wear a long-sleeved shirt or invest in a long-sleeve rash vest or costume. In a desert climate, long pants and shirts can feel suffocating. Choose lightweight clothing with a tight weave. Darker coloured clothing tends to offer more protection for UV rays than light colours.
Tip 5: Wear polaroid sunglasses
Invest in a quality pair of polaroid sunglasses. When shopping, check the label to see what protection the lenses provide. Ideally, they should protect against UVA and UVB rays.
Don’t be fooled by dark sunglasses. Unless they say UV 400 or 100% UV protection, they offer little protection from harsh light reflecting off the sea, water, and desert sand. And be aware of cheap toy sunglasses for children. Instead, invest in a good pair of sunglasses for your little one. They need it as much as you do.
Choose oversized wraparound sunglasses in favour of slinky designer ware. You want glasses that cover your entire eye socket. And just because it’s an expensive brand doesn’t mean it’s better quality.
Tip 6: Keep babies out of the sun
In the first year of your little one’s life, their skin is susceptible and can burn far easier and quicker than an older child’s or adult. If you’re planning to spend time at the beach or outdoors, find a shady spot or pack a UPF and UV coated beach umbrella that you can set up.
Ensure you drink plenty of fluids and feed your baby regularly as they can quickly become dehydrated. And if your little one begins to fuss, take it as a sign it’s time to go home.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is made from cholesterol in your body when exposed to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet B rays target cholesterol in your skin cells. This then tells the cells in your gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for strong, healthy bones.
People with low Vitamin D levels in their body struggling with muscle weakness, cancer, brittle bones (osteoporosis), and depression.
Without spending too much time in the sun, take a supplement and eat foods high in Vitamin D like sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolk, canned tuna, swordfish, and salmon.
Look after your skin
If you want healthy skin that ages well, you need to look after it from early childhood. You need to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen every day as well as protect eyewear and clothing. Ask a friend or family member to help you apply sunscreen to hard-to-reach places like the upper middle of your back.
And check your skin weekly. Are there any new moles? Have they changed colour or shape? You can learn more about melanoma here. But if you suspect you have melanoma, contact one of Welwitschia Hospital’s trusted Doctors for a consultation here.
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