The feeling of sunlight on our skin conjures up feelings of summer holidays and fun times, and we feel glowing and healthy. However, too much sun can come with its downfalls. Sun contains UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning) rays which affect the skin in a number of ways.
Exposure to the sun causes:
- Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions – due to decreases in the skin’s immune function
- Benign tumours
- Fine and coarse wrinkles
- Discoloured areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation
- Sallowness — a yellow discoloration of the skin
- Telangiectasias — the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
- Elastosis — the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue (causing lines, wrinkles and sagging skin)
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can somewhat repair itself, especially with on-going sun protection. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater (for UVB protection) and zinc oxide (for UVA protection) 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming. Ideally every morning.
- Select clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.).
- Perform skin self-exams regularly (at least monthly) to become familiar with existing growths ie moles and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.
Contributor: Dr Susan Ford – Medical practitioner at FEMINA HEALTH