Back 08 Dec, 2021 - Holiday

Medihelp

By Medihelp

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Enjoy the sun this summer

Enjoy the sun this summer

With so many sunscreen options available, it can however be a daunting task to choose the right sunscreen.
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How to choose the right sunscreen

Whether you are an avid outdoor person or spend only a couple of minutes in the sun every day, it is essential to always wear sunscreen. Sunscreen helps to protect your skin against the harmful effects of the sun such as skin changes, sunburn, early ageing and skin cancer.

With so many sunscreen options available, it can however be a daunting task to choose the right sunscreen. How do we know which one provides better protection? What would be the best option for our skin type? Will sunscreen remain effective when we sweat or spend time in the water? What does SPF, UVA, UVB and broad-spectrum protection mean, and why is it important for us to know?

UVA, UVB and UVC rays

When we spend time in the sun, we are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun’s rays reaching the earth’s surface. UV rays are categorised into UVA, UVB and UVC rays.

UVA rays consist of UVA1 and UVA2 and make up as much as 95% of the UV radiation reaching earth. These rays cause skin ageing, redness, pigment darkening and skin cancer (although UVA1 is less potent than UVA2).

UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, inflammation, ageing, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. Only about 5% of UVB rays reaches the earth’s surface. UVB rays are most prevalent from late morning to late afternoon.

UVC rays are not dangerous as they are absorbed by the ozone layer and generally don’t reach the surface of the earth.

SPF and broad-spectrum
SPF – sun protection factor – is a measure of how well your sunscreen protects you from harmful UVB rays. By law, a sunscreen’s SPF must always be displayed on the label.

The SPF rating tells you how long it would take to redden your skin when you are exposed to the sun. For instance, with an SPF of 50 it would take you 50 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.

SPF is divided into the following ratings:

  • Low protection: SPF is below 15.
  • Medium protection: SPF is 15 to 29.
  • High protection: SPF is 30 to 49.
  • Very high protection: SPF is over 50.
  • This is also influenced by the time of day you are in the sun, as the sun is stronger around midday than in the morning or late afternoon. (Spending an hour in the sun in the morning may result in the same exposure as spending only 15 minutes in the sun around midday.)

    Broad-spectrum protection refers to sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

    How much sunscreen should I use?
    Experts recommend sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 for everyday use and at least 30 for extended outdoor activities. Sunscreen has to be applied regularly when you spend a long time in the sun and after taking part in water activities, or after sweating heavily. Water-resistant sunscreens are formulated to stay on wet skin for longer.

    Sunscreen and water resistance
    Water and sweat resistance is a key feature to consider when selecting sunscreen. Sunscreen can either be ‘water resistant’ or ‘very water resistant’. With water-resistant sunscreen, SPF is maintained after 40 minutes of water activity or sweating, while very water-resistant sunscreen protects you from the sun for up to 80 minutes. The water resistance depends on how the sunscreen is formulated and its active ingredients. With some sunscreens, you need to wait several minutes after applying it to allow the product to form a water-resistant film.

    Different sunscreens for face, body and sensitive skin
    Different sunscreens are available on the market, including face- and body-specific sunscreens and sunscreens for sensitive skin.

    Facial sunscreen are usually formulated differently to take into account the differences between facial and body skin. Face-specific sunscreens tend to be less greasy to minimise breakouts, absorb more easily and cause less irritation of the skin.

    Some people with sensitive skin may find that they’re allergic to ingredients in a specific sunscreen. Using sunscreen with other creams and lotions can also cause an allergic reaction, or even if you use certain medications. Luckily, specific sunscreens have been developed for sensitive skin, including fragrance-free or alcohol-free sunscreens.

    Before use, apply a small amount of sunscreen on the inside of your forearm for a few days to check for any reaction to rule out sensitivity to sunscreen.

    You must still get a little sun

    Sun exposure is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D can assist in absorbing calcium more effectively, help your body’s immune function, and protect your bone, muscles and heart.

    Even 15 minutes in the sun can provide your body with its daily vitamin D needs.

    What if I get sunburned?

    These are some of the things you can do to relieve sunburn:

  • Use a moisturiser that specifically helps to soothe sunburned skin, such as one              containing aloe vera or hydrocortisone
  • Take frequent cool baths or showers.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication to reduce any swelling and discomfort.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to stay hydrated.
  •  

    Your Medihelp self-medication benefits

    If you suspect that you might have overdone your sun exposure, you can ask a pharmacist for advice. If you obtain medicine without a prescription, also called over-the-counter (OTC) or self-medication, benefits will be paid from the available funds in your savings account or the self-medication benefit under your day-to-day benefits, depending on the specific plan that you’re on. You can view your benefits online by registering on the Member Zone .

    Sources:
    https://cansa.org.za/category/recent-posts/prevention-early-detection/sunsmart/
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/best-sunscreen/art-20045110
    https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/
    https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs
    https://www.uptodate.com/contents/selection-of-sunscreen-and-sun-protective-measures?csi=f0d12d8b-7bf8-403b-9832-96b4e7cfc4d1&source=contentShare
    https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306838


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