MALAYSIANS are so used to the sunlight that we often never bother to put on some protection before we venture out into the sun. Be warned that even for those with darker skins, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to damaging consequences.
Just review these simple facts. If you're out on the beach on a hot sunny day, it's not only direct sunlight you should be worried about. The sun’s reflective powers are great – 17% on sand. Even if it's a cloudy day, approximately 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.
So the word by every dermatologist holds true – every one needs protection. But what protection? For the skin, there are a few things to remember.
Sunscreens are not only for protection against the sun, but used on a regular basis, these can actually allow some repair of damaged skin. In addition, with proper protection from UV radiation, most premature ageing of the skin can be avoided.
In addition, the right shades not only make you look really good, but it does lessen the damaging effects of the sun to the eyes.
Sunscreens are available in many forms. But first in the mind should be the SPF.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This can range from as low as two to as high as 60. The numbers refer to the product’s ability to screen or block out the sun. It is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce sunburn on protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause sunburn on the unprotected skin.
For example, if a sunscreen is rated SPF 4 and a person who would normally turn red after 10 minutes of exposure in the sun uses it, it would take 40 minutes of exposure for the skin to turn red.
In fact, dermatologists strongly recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater year-round for all skin types.
When and how
Sunscreens should be applied about 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Pay particular attention to the face, hands and arms, and coat the skin liberally. Don’t forget that lips get sunburned too, so apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of 15 or higher.
Sunscreens should be reapplied after swimming or perspiring heavily. Even so-called water resistant sunscreens may lose their effectiveness. Sunscreens rub off as well as wash off, so if you’ve towel-dried reapply waterproof sunscreen for continued protection.
Sunscreen and sunblock
Sunscreens chemically absorb UV rays. Sunblocks physically deflect them.
Sunscreen has long blocked UVB effectively and new ingredients have been incorporated to screen a variety of UVA rays.
New preparations for sunblocks now also offer UVA and UVB protection.
Other types of protection
If you know you're going to be exposed to the sun for a fairly long period of time, sunscreens or sunblocks are not enough.
Wear wide brimmed hats and protective clothing.
This is important because a number of studies have confirmed that repeated sunburns substantially increase the risk for melanoma.
There's no such thing as safe tanning. Tanning is actually the skin's response to injury, where the skin produces more melanin as a response to the injury.
The two most common are first degree burns and second degree burns. First degree sunburns cause redness and will heal, possibly with some peeling, within a few days. They are best treated with cool baths and bland moisturisers or even over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams. Also, aspirin taken orally may lessen early development of sunburn.
Second degree sunburns blister and can be considered a medical emergency if a large area is affected. When it is accompanied by headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help immediately.
According to consultant optician Thomas Kok, “It is very important to wear protective sunglasses, especially if one is near the sea where, with the reflection from the water, the UV rays are very high and intense. It is also bad to read under the sun as the reflection off the page is also damaging. Sunglasses should be used,” he says. Kok also notes that sunglasses with dark grey, dark green and dark brown lenses are more soothing to the eye.
When you're considering sunglasses, do take note that quality is important. Look for sunglasses that are actually general or specific purpose sunglasses and not just fashion spectacles with coloured lenses. The sunglasses should be able to absorb more than 95% UV rays (or transmit less than 5% UVR). Coloured glasses, on the other hand, have no such protection and could even be more damaging.
If the sunglasses are to be used while driving, then colors should still be easily recognised when viewed through the lens.
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