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Sun care - How to Protect Your Skin and Stay Safe Outdoors
Exposure to the sun
Some sunlight is important because our skin uses it to produce vitamin D, which helps to build and maintain strong bones. Too much sun is harmful and can damage your skin. The sun gives out ultraviolet (UV) radiation that is made up of three types of rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays from the sun cannot get through the ozone layer. But UVA and UVB rays can, and have been linked to skin damage.
Sun tan - A tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself. UV radiation stimulates your skin to produce more pigment (colour) giving you a characteristic tan. Your tan will fade over time, but the skin damage remains.
Short-term overexposure to the sun can cause your skin to burn, usually making it red, hot and painful. Burnt skin can be soothed with aftersun lotions. After a couple of days, the burnt skin may peel. Severe sunburn with blistering may need medical treatment.
You cannot feel UV rays. The warmth felt on your skin on a sunny day is actually caused by the sun's infrared radiation. So, just because you can't feel the hot rays of the sun doesn't mean you won't get sunburnt.
The amount of UV radiation is generally lower during the winter but snow reflects most of the sun's rays, so you can still get sunburnt. Particularly if you're high up in the mountains where there is less atmosphere to block out the UV rays. Cloud doesn't stop the sun's UV rays getting through either. In fact, haze can even increase the amount of UV radiation exposure.
Preventing Sun Damage
Stay out of the sun between and when the sun's UV rays are strongest. Look for shady areas and use umbrellas or canopies.
2. Watch the UV index
The UV index describes the strength of the sun's UV radiation. It is usually shown as a number in a triangle on a weather map. The numbers range from one to 11 and the higher the number, the stronger the UV radiation.
3. Cover up
Wear long-sleeved tops and trousers, and choose materials that have a close weave as these tend to block out the most UV rays. Be aware that wet clothing stretches and lets more UV radiation through to your skin. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can reduce the UV radiation reaching your face by more than 50%. Sunglasses help to protect your eyes and eyelids, and wraparound sunglasses will also protect the skin around your eyes. Choose a pair of sunglasses that has the following labels: 100% UV protection and UV 400.
4. Wear sunscreen
Choose a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. The SPF tells you how good the sunscreen is at filtering out the UVB rays. No sunscreen can offer 100 percent protection, but you will get more than 90 percent protection from UVB rays with SPF 15 and a higher percentage the higher the SPF you use. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours or more often if you've been swimming or sweating a lot. Wear complete sunblock cream on very exposed and sun-sensitive areas like your nose, ears and lips.
Children and the sun
Getting sunburnt as a child is known to increase the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Young skin is sensitive and very easily damaged by the sun's rays.
Use water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on all exposed areas of children's skin and apply generously every couple of hours. If you take your child swimming, re-apply the sunscreen after towel drying.
World Health Organisation www.who.int
The Skin Cancer Foundation www.skincancer.org
Please note: The information provided above is for general reference only and we do not accept any duty of care to you, or responsibility for its contents. For your safety, you should always obtain professional medical information regarding the skin safety of you and/or your family.