Sunny South Africa! Almost all South Africans enjoy an outdoor-lifestyle, from young to old. Geographically our country spans from sea level to high plateaus to mountains. All of these areas average about 2 500 hours of sunshine per year!
For these reasons, skin care in the sun is very important, however, largely overlooked.
The most important aspect of skin care in the sun is protection. What’s great is that clothing affords us good protection from UVA and UVB (ultraviolet A and B radiation) rays, as well as hats and parasols/umbrellas. We should still, however, wear a good sunblock with a high SPF (sun protection factor) on areas of exposed skin.
Most sunblocks are now formulated to be transparent on high and low melanated skins without that tell-tale milky white sheen. Due to the fact that the potentially hazardous ingredients – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – have been removed.
Dehydration is next in importance. Sunblocks are now formulated to prevent dehydration of the skin, just like moisturizers and body lotions/creams. Moisturizers in general are rated at about SPF5-10 and may contain additional ingredients to bump up the SPF higher.
Which SPF number is the best?
Everyone should be applying a sunblock with an SPF of 30 or 50 in South Africa, due to our outdoors lifestyle and the high average of sunny days we enjoy.
A sunblock with an SPF of 30 will protect your skin by blocking and absorbing approximately 95% of UVA and UVB radiation. Whereas a SPF 50 offers 100% blocking and absorption.
You should still apply a sunblock on cloudy days, as UV radiation passes through clouds.
Why does my skin break out after I have worn a sunblock?
Breakouts of spots or pimples are common to every skin type after wearing a sunblock. Some of the ingredients that filter, or block UV radiation cause mild irritation after they have been broken down by UV rays. The solution is to remove the sunblock residue with a damp washcloth or wet wipe after 1-2 hours spent in direct sunlight. Reapply your sunblock every 2 hours, to ensure that you are properly protected for extended periods in direct sunlight.
Which should I apply first, sunblock or makeup?
Sunblock should be applied first onto clean skin. This will prevent any interactions with the ingredients of your moisturizer, and as mentioned, most sunblocks have hydrating ingredients, so you can skip using a moisturizer. Apply a setting powder and then your makeup as usual. Remember, your makeup will give you another layer of protection, so a sunblock with an SPF of 15 or 20 is enough.
Sun damage or photoageing and skin cancers
Exposure to UVA and UVB radiation over time causes sun damage to our skins. This radiation has a shorter wavelength than visible light and can therefore penetrate the epidermis or outer layer of the skin. As a result, it causes damage to the regenerative layer of our skin, the dermis. This damage can be short term – sunburn – or long-term resulting in premature ageing and skin cancers.
Damage from radiation affects
- Normal skin cells causing squamous cell carcinomas (new, changing or unusual skin growth)
- Cells that produce collagen and elastin causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity
- Cells that produce melanin causing pigmentation and melanomas (unusually shaped and coloured moles or lesions that change over time)
How often should I check my skin or moles?
- Be aware of any changes in your skin after any prolonged exposure to the sun
- Have regular checks with a dermatologist. If you have a family history of skin cancers and other cancers which may put you at a higher risk