Although we are moving towards more cooler days, DR M E DOCRAT warns that we should still be aware of the harmful rays of the sun.
THE sun is good for many things but it also harms our skin because it emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV light can cause wrinkles and age spots, and can also cause skin cancer. Even on a cloudy day, UV rays can damage our skin. Without protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, the following can occur:
On the face, forearms and trunk, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common but melanomas are the deadliest. Skin cancer looks like a bump or pinkish patch on the skin. It develops in people who have light skin but, with early treatment, this type of cancer can be cured.
Melanoma may develop in a mole or it can appear on the skin as a new dark spot. Melanoma contains shades of black, red or blue. When found early, it can be cured. Left untreated, melanoma can spread to other areas of the body and be deadly.
Too many sunburns or sunburns that blister increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Avoiding sunburn is important. If you do get sunburn, you may get relief from cool, wet compresses and soothing lotions.
Tanning is often mistaken as a sign of good health. What a tan actually means is that the skin has been injured. There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ tan.
Exposure to UV rays makes skin tough and leathery. It makes a person’s skin age quicker than normal skin. Skin exposed to the sun can develop large age spots, wrinkles and scaly growths, known as actinic keratosis. Actinic keratoses are considered an early stage in the development of skin cancer.
Alergic reactions and other conditions
For some people, sun exposure causes an allergic reaction in the skin. Common signs of a sun allergy are bumps, blisters and red blotches on the skin. People taking certain medications can develop a rash after being out in the sun. Medications that interact with sunlight and can cause these reactions include antibiotics and medications for treating blood pressure and arthritis. Sun exposure can also worsen some diseases.
How do I protect my skin from the sun?
Be sun smart; you can safely work and play outdoors without increasing skin cancer risk or premature aging. It’s never too late to start protecting your skin. Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen to all exposed skin. ‘Broad-spectrum’ sun block provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply approximately every three hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Seek shade; we should avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm because the sun’s rays are strongest during that period. Children should avoid sun exposure by playing in the shade. Be extra cautious near water and sand as they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun. If you notice any spot or mole changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is treatable when caught early.
If you notice that a mole differs from another or a spot on your skin changes, itches or bleeds, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist. These changes can be signs of skin cancer. With early detection and treatment, skin cancer has a high cure rate.
It is most important not to leave home without putting on a sunblock. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen on all exposed skin. Don’t forget about hands, feet, ears and lips. It is also important to note that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two to three hours – about half a teaspoon for your face and neck and a full teaspoon per limb at first and again when reapplying. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reapply.
Lighten up your skin-care routine
In summer, the skin-care routine may need to be a little more lightweight. The heat and humidity of summer means you can swap a heavier cleanser (cream or oil cleanser) in favour of a gentle foaming option. Despite the weather being hot and humid, you still need to moisturise. Switch to a combination moisturiser and sunscreen. A lightweight moisturiser with a sunscreen in it may be ample for most people as long as you are applying a generous amount and reapplying every couple of hours. Thicker moisturisers can lead to clogged pores and acne. Use an oil free moisturiser.
You should always follow cleansing with a moisturiser. Moisturisers re-establish the stratum corneum, your outer layer of the skin, which protects from harmful pollutants and chemicals, and prevents further irritation or dryness. Invest in a good Vitamin C serum as it helps prevent hyperpigmentation, improves the appearance of fine lines and can help with collagen production.
Don’t forget to exfoliate. If you have oily skin, increase the amount of days that you exfoliate per week. Cut down your tub time. Keep showers short. Over-showering or showering in water that is too hot can lead to over-drying your skin, leading to inflammation and even summertime eczema. Make sure that your makeup is non comedogenic (without pore-clogging ingredients)
Always wear sun-protective clothing, wide brim hats and sunglasses in the sun. Be mindful to expose as little of your body as possible to direct sunlight. Prevent exposure to the sun by sitting under an umbrella, wearing an extra-large hat and avoiding the midday sun.
- Dr M E Docrat [MB ChB (Ntl) MMed (Derm) UCT] is a dermatologist/ skin specialist at Dermacity Clinic, in Cape Town. Phone: 021 423 3180/90; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: dermacity.co.za