How To Protect Yourself From The Sun

16May

Spending time in the great outdoors is a favourite pastime of many Australians, but with the highest prevalence of skin cancer in the world, it is important that Australians also know how to protect themselves from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

What you need to know:

Exposure to the sun is mostly unavoidable. Once the UV rating is 3 or above, deliberate measures will be required in order to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects. It is sensible to try and organise your day so that your level of exposure will be least when the UV rating is greatest. Generally, this rating is highest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Most weather forecasts include details of the predicted UV index for that day. There are also apps with this information available to help you keep informed.

When you are heading outdoors, the best strategy is to follow the Cancer Council’s recommendations:

SLIP on protective clothing
SLOP on some sunscreen
SLAP on a hat
SEEK shad
SLIDE on some sunglasses

Clothing:

One of the best forms of sun protection is your clothing, especially that which is designed specifically for use in the sun. Covering as much skin as possible is ideal such as wearing shirts with long sleeves and wide collars. Choose fabrics that are comfortable and breathable in the heat. When swimming, make sure the materials are designed for water.
Hats should be wide-brimmed to ensure as much sun is blocked as possible. Baseball caps are not effective as they leave many parts of the face and neck without cover. You should not be able to see through little holes in the hat’s fabric.
Sunglasses should meet Australian Standards, be close-fitting and wrap-around style to offer the best protection.

Sunscreen:

Make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF30+) which is water-resistant.
Apply the cream liberally to dry skin and spread it beyond the edge of your clothing (as clothing can shift during activity)
Remember to apply it 20 minutes before heading outside and to reapply every 2 hours (also after time in the water or excessive sweating or if the skin is wiped with a towel)
Make use of daily moisturisers with added SPF protection.

Shade:

Avoiding direct sunlight can be effective in reducing the damage from the sun but care still needs to be taken to limit the impact of reflected UV rays.
Aim for shade which casts a complete shadow rather than a partial one.
Choose recreational areas carefully such as parks with lots of trees and playgrounds or pools with shade cloth covering.
In areas where there is little shade available, create your own!

Children and Adolescents:

The level of UV exposure in the early years of life (as well as the development of good habits of sun protection), lay the foundations for the risk of skin cancer in later life.
It is important to be a positive role model for young people and to develop a culture of sun-smart behaviour. With plenty of encouragement, it is possible to make these practices a normal part of life.

Babies:

Prams should be parked in the shade. Covers should be used which are effective in blocking out the sun while at the same time allowing adequate air circulation.
Very young babies (under 6 months) should be kept out of the sun altogether where possible. This is because their skin is too sensitive for sun cream and they are particularly susceptible to the sun’s harmful effects.

Hidden risks:

Even when you make an effort to be proactive, there are several unknown factors to be aware of.

UV rays can be reflected off surfaces such as water, snow or concrete. This is why a hat alone will not suffice.
Your skin can still get burnt on overcast or cold days. In fact, the UV level has nothing to do with the temperature.
Certain parts of the body are often neglected when it comes to applying sunscreen and are therefore common sites for sunburn and skin cancer (such as lips, ears, nose, sides of neck, behind knees)
You don’t need to spend a whole day at the beach to get burnt – it can happen in as little as 15 minutes (and this can take place doing simple everyday tasks such as driving a car or mowing the lawn).
Solariums and sunbeds might seem like a good way to get a tan without being in the sun, but they actually expose the skin to much higher levels of UV radiation.

While prevention is better than a cure, it is important to note that early detection of skin cancer is the best chance for successful treatment. People of all ages should check their skin regularly and visit their doctor immediately if they notice any unusual signs or changes in the appearance of their skin.

Chemistworks offers an extensive range of products to keep you and your family protected from the sun. Please visit one of our stores and ask our friendly staff for assistance.