Keep Your Skin Sun Safe

Renhua NA, Deputy Director of the UFH Center for Clinical Research, Dermatologist

Whether it’s picnicking, golfing, swimming, gardening, or just relaxing on the grass, summer brings with it a host of fun outdoor activities. As you enjoy yourself outside, be safe and don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun’s powerful rays.

While the sun provides us with vitamin D and is important to our overall health, its rays also contain damaging cancer-causing components known as ultraviolet (UV) rays. These consist of ultraviolet B (UVB), which causes sunburn, and ultraviolet A (UVA), which causes aging of the skin. At its worst, sun damage inflicted by UVB and UVA can lead to skin cancer later in life.

Sun damage accumulates over time, so the sooner you start to protect yourself, the less damage you will get. The majority of sun damage, however, actually occurs by the age of 20. For this reason it is vital that you protect your children from the sun’s rays.

You don’t need to hide from the sun completely but it is important that you take protective measures. Your greatest protection is always to wear sunscreen when out in the sun. The effectiveness of a sunscreen is rated by its Sun Protection Factor, or SPF. The higher the SPF, the fewer sun rays will reach your skin. If you have fair skin you will need to use a sunscreen with a higher SPF (30 or above). It is important to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun and then re-apply it every 2 to 3 hours and after swimming. Make sure that you put on enough sunscreen so that it forms a layer on your skin. The current recommended amount of sunscreen to be used is 2 mg/cm2, or about 3 to 4 peanut-sized applications to the area of the face.

While sunscreen prevents you from overexposure to the sun, it does not protect you 100%. It is therefore important to wear a hat and protective clothing while out in the sun. Try to avoid outdoor activities between 10 am and 3 pm, when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. If you are outside during these times, take frequent breaks by going indoors or by moving into the shade.

Sometimes even the best efforts do not go as planned. If you get a sunburn, make sure you look after your sun damaged skin while it repairs itself.

  1. Stay out of the sun until the redness, peeling and pain have gone away.
  2. Intensively moisturize burnt areas. This won’t stop peeling, but will help prevent the new layer of skin underneath from drying out.
  3. Use cold compresses or cold baths to sooth the pain.
  4. Drink plenty of water to replenish fluids.
  5. For severe sunburn, or if you are experiencing blistering, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or severe pain, see a doctor immediately.

If you detect any abnormality in your skin such as a changing mole or red spots that won’t heal, please consult a dermatologist.

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