The Sun and your Skin.
The sun and light are good for health, growth and a sense of well-being. But the bright sunlight we're exposed to has its risks and these appear to be increasing as the hole in the ozone layer grows. As knowledge of the ill effects of too much sun increases, some long held beliefs need re-thinking.
Sunburn can be prevented. Most of us know about sunburn from personal experience, but we haven't really thought about what the sun is doing to our skin. What we haven't realised is that sunburn is a radiation burn.
We now know that a suntan is really an indication of skin damage. Each burn damages the skin a little bit more and if that damage continues year after year, you risk developing skin cancer - even in younger people. A little sunlight is good for a child's skin, but only a little. Children are more sensitive to the sun than adults and too much sunlight tends to damage and weaken the skin. There is good evidence to support the opinion that sunburn in childhood significantly increases the likelihood of skin cancer in later life.
What is UV?
Ultraviolet(UV) radiation is the part of the solar spectrum which affects the skin to produce Vitamin D which the body needs for good health. But UV rays also cause sunburn, early ageing and wrinkling of the skin. (You can see this by looking at older people's skin.) The damage may result in skin cancer later in life. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. We have about 12 000 new cases every year, and about 1000 of the serious type of skin cancer known as melanoma.
Ultraviolet radiation itself is not hot, the heat is produced by infrared radiation. The two often occur when the sun is close to where you are on earth. But there is a slight time difference between the two, because ultraviolet rays are instant, while infrared rays take time to heat the earth and air. Thus ultraviolet radiation is greatest when the sun is right overhead, while maximum temperatures may come later. The ultraviolet rays have much more atmosphere to pass through when the sun is low in the sky, and their effect on skin is much less intense.
What to do
You usually won't be aware that the sun is burning you, so you need to learn to 'cover up in the sun'. This means taking care at all times, especially between 11am and 3pm. Don't be misled into thinking that radiation danger is less because the day is not hot.
Protect the skin by putting a barrier between the sun's rays and the skin. This can be a natural barrier such as shade from a tree or umbrella, a hat or clothing.
Hats which shade the back of the neck, ears, forehead, nose and chin, and stay on in the wind are what you should be wearing. You should also wear close woven shirts, dresses, skirts and pants which cover the arms, shoulders and thighs.
When you have to be in the sun and cannot cover your skin you should use sunscreen. Read the label carefully and follow the manufacturer's instructions. You should apply the sunscreen before going out in the sun and re-apply it regularly.
Did you know?
Blistering or painful sunburn in childhood and adolescence is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. Just ONE single blistering sunburn in adolescence has been shown to significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer in later life. Repeated suntanning contributes to premature ageing of the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer.
- Any unusual skin condition that doesn't heal in four weeks.
- Any mole or darker patch of skin that suddenly appears or starts to grow rapidly changes colour, bleeds, becomes painful, itchy, or shows redness, darkening or a dull brownish zone around the mole.
- See your doctor if you have any of these signs or symptoms.
- Plenty of common sense
- A good quality sunscreen.
- Cover up with hats and other light clothing.
- Avoid the 'midday sun' (11.00am to 3.00pm) where possible.
If you do get burnt
- Drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun, and ask your pharmacist for a sunburn preparation.
Points to Note
- A tan (melanin) offers some protection but not complete protection from the ageing and burning rays.
- Sunscreens need to be absorbed for 15 to 20 minutes before they will work so it is best to put them on before going out in the sun.
- Sunscreens need to be re-applied often.
- Skin which has not been exposed to the sun, burns more easily - eg. babies.
- Exposed areas are more likely to get burnt and are the most common sites for skin cancers, e.g. bald heads, noses, tips of the ears, shoulders, hands.
- Some medicines may make you burn more rapidly than normal - if you suspect this may be a problem, check with your pharmacist.
- Clouds may screen out the heat but not the skin damaging rays.
- Sand and water reflect damaging rays. An umbrella may not be a complete shade.
- Sun penetrates water and still burns when you're swimming.
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UVA rays and help prevent eye disease such as cataracts. Quality lenses are important and the degree of protection can't be judged by the colour of the lenses or the price. Ask at your pharmacy for advice.
- Ask your doctor to check your skin for sun damage annually.
Ultra violet light rays UVA and UVB do the damage. UVB rays are responsible for what we see as sunburn and UVA is thought to be linked with more serious effects such as skin cancer. The SPF(Sun Protection Factor) rating of a sunscreen indicates the degree to which you are protected - the higher the number the better the protection. For example an SPF15+ sunscreen gives you 15 times more protection than your normal burn time without any sunscreen.
Use a good quality 15+ SPF broad spectrum sunscreen for best possible protection. All our sunscreens comply with the sunscreen standards, which will block out both harmful UVA and UVB rays.
The SunSense Range
SunSense sunscreens were developed by dermatologists to suit a range of skin types and offer the best possible protection. In addition SunSense sunscreens do not contain some of the ingredients which commonly cause sensitivities in some people. The range also includes some of the most water resistant sunscreens available which is useful if you're at the beach.
|SunSense Milk 15+: ||Light, smooth milk with a moisturising base. Water resistant.|
|SunSense Sport 15+: ||Gives 6 hours water resistance - ideal for water lovers and sports enthusiasts.|
|SunSense Cream 15+: ||Soft non-greasy and moisturising formula in a convenient flip-top tube. Ideal for drier skin types.|
|SunSense LIF 15+: ||Low irritant formula for sensitive skin. Doesn't contain PABA, oxybenzone or perfumes.|
|SunSensitive 15+: ||Especially formulated for highly sensitive skin|
|SunSense Face Milk 15+: ||Hypo-allergenic base with moisturisers. Can be used daily under make-up or alone.|
|SunSense Toddler Milk 15+: ||Light, smooth milk especially formulated for children's delicate skin. Water resistant.|
Cracked lips are common at this time of year and regular use of a good SPF 15+ lipscreen such as SunSense Lip Balm is highly recommended.
The New Zealand Cancer Society's rules for sun protection:
- Avoid sun exposure where possible.
- Wear a broad brimmed hat.
- Wear clothing that filters out harmful solar radiation as much as possible.
- Always use a sunscreen.