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Tips For Effective Sun Protection: How To Keep Your Skin Safe

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health cover, highlights the importance of sun protection and tips to keep your skin safe.

“SunSmart Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which runs from December to January, is a reminder that taking care of our skin in the sun is not only about looking good but also about safeguarding our health,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause various skin issues, including skin cancer, premature ageing, and sunburn. However, with proper sun protection measures, you can enjoy the outdoors safely.”

The Sun and Skin Health

The sun emits various types of UV rays, including UVA and UVB rays. Both types can damage your skin, but in different ways:

  • UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing premature ageing, wrinkles and contributing to skin cancer risk, including melanoma (the deadliest form), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
  • UVB rays primarily affect the outer layers of the skin and are responsible for sunburn. Sunburn is not only painful but also damages the DNA in your skin cells.

Tips for Effective Sun Protection

Given the potential risks associated with UV exposure, Affinity Health provides these sun protection tips.


Use Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen

While higher SPF values do offer increased protection, it’s crucial to understand that no sunscreen can completely shield you from 100% of harmful UV rays.

Starting with SPF 30 is a sensible baseline, but when engaging in prolonged outdoor activities, opting for SPF 50 is advisable. Ensure you apply a liberal amount of sunscreen to effectively cover all exposed skin, paying attention to frequently overlooked areas such as the ears and the back of your neck.


Seek Shade

Stay in the shade, especially during peak sun hours (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Whenever possible, plan outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s intensity is lower.


Wear Protective Clothing

Consider clothing with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating for added protection. UPF-rated clothing acts as a physical barrier between your skin and UV radiation.

Unlike sunscreen, which needs to be reapplied regularly, UPF clothing provides continuous protection as long as you wear it. They often include features like long sleeves, high collars, and longer hems to protect your arms, neck, and legs. Prolonged UV exposure can lead to cataracts and other eye issues. Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection to safeguard your eyes.


Avoid Tanning Beds

Tanning beds might be popular for achieving a sun-kissed glow, but they significantly increase the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing. Tanning beds also weaken our skin’s natural defences, making it more susceptible to sunburns and long-term UV damage.


Know Your Skin

Regularly inspect your skin for any changes. Keep in mind the “ABCDE” criteria when monitoring new moles, freckles, and lesions.

  • Asymmetry: One-half of the mole or lesion doesn’t match the other.
  • Border: Irregular, blurred, or jagged edges.
  • Colour: Varied colours within the same mole (shades of brown, black, blue, or red).
  • Diametre: A mole larger than 6 millimetres (about the size of a pencil eraser).
  • Evolving: Changes in size, shape, or colour over time.

If you notice anything unusual, consult a dermatologist.


Educate Yourself About Medications

While it’s normal for the skin to react to sun exposure, photosensitivity takes this reaction to a heightened level. This heightened sensitivity can result in an array of skin reactions, ranging from mild redness and rashes to severe burns and blistering.

Be aware of medications that have the potential to trigger photosensitivity as a side effect, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, retinoids, and certain diuretics.


Teach Sun Safety to Children

Educating children about the significance of sun protection is a vital step in fostering lifelong habits that safeguard their skin from harmful UV radiation. By consistently practising sun protection measures ourselves, such as applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing like long sleeves and sunglasses, and donning wide-brimmed hats when venturing outdoors, we set a positive example.


Skin Protection is a Year-Round Commitment

While SunSmart Skin Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder to be vigilant about sun protection – especially during summer when temperatures can often reach highs between 25 to 35 degrees Celsius or even higher in some regions, it’s essential to incorporate these practices into your daily life year-round. UV rays can still harm your skin during the cooler months and on overcast days.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health cover, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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