A glimpse at our beautiful blue sky gives us an instant lift, and who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of the sun’s soothing warmth on our skin as we laze about on our holiday or enjoy our favourite outdoor sport?
But how much are you thinking about the downside of all that facetime with the sun? If the answer is ‘not so much’, you need to consider some hard facts…
Our sun is very intense, and we have among the highest number per year of sunny days in the world – we get more sunshine in winter than they do in a European summer. It’s also no coincidence that we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, second only to Australia, and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in SA.
Then there are the other effects of sun exposure on our skin. Most of the lines, wrinkles, sagging, dark marks, etc., we put down to ageing are actually the result of UV damage rather than natural ageing. If you need convincing, just look at the skin on the inside of your arm (which has had little sun exposure) compared to that on the top of your arm, which has had plenty. Need we say more?
Visible signs of ageing from sun damage can show as early as your twenties, depending on how much of a sunbunny you’ve been in your early life, especially if you are sporty, but it’s between 35 and 49 that the real damage rises to the surface.
Numerous studies have shown that repeated unprotected exposure to ultraviolet and infrared radiation from the sun, even for short periods at a time, breaks down collagen and damages skin cell DNA. UVA rays penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, breaking down the support structures and resulting in loss of volume and elasticity, whereas UVB rays are responsible for the topical burning of the skin, also triggering the production of pigment within the skin which, in turn, causes freckles and sunspots and which may lead to skin cancer.
Bottom line… the more diligent you are about protecting your skin from a young age, the better your chances are of looking younger for longer.
Be Sun Smart
Your no. 1 tip for keeping skin healthy and looking good for as long as possible is to be savvy about sun protection:
- Choose a good quality sunscreen that has broadscreen (both UVA and UVB sun protection). Apply it every day, even in winter.
- Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm in summer.
- Use UV protective clothing, hat and sunglasses and find the shade.
- You shouldn’t be out there that long, but if you are, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially after swimming.
- Make sure your kids are not exposed to too much sunshine, especially under the age of 2, and make sure they are well protected with UV swimsuits, hats and sunglasses, as well as sunscreen specially formulated for their delicate skin.
- You need 10 minutes of sun exposure on bare skin twice a week to produce the vitamin D your body needs. We recommend exposing your thighs rather than your face and arms, which get regular exposure, to avoid further damage on their skin.