One of the things about South Africa is the amount of time we spend outside. Wether it’s having a friendly gathering, swimming or simply working in the garden, we are exposed to sun on a daily basis. Living in London, one thing I notice every year is the amount of sun bathers out in the London parks. But then, who doesn’t like (a lot of) sun exposure on a warm day?
Being from South Africa, I grew up spending lots of time in the sun. Thankfully my mum was very good at getting us to understand the importance of applying sunscreen, especially when we went swimming. I must admit that I was lazy at wearing a hat or sitting in the shade, but as soon as I learned in my beauty training about the harm that UV rays can cause, I started to respect and protect my skin better.
Benefits of the sun for our health
Sun exposure is important for our bodies to produce enough Vitamin D. It is quite often that I hear of Vitamin D deficiency in women living in the UK due to the lack of sunshine. Along with it being drilled into our brains to use SPF50 or higher these days, there was a reported increase in rickets among children a few years ago. It is also commonly known that Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of Osteomalacia amongst adults. Prolonged deficiency can also result in Osteoporosis in later ages with women. Saying this, there is no need to over expose skin to the sun, just 10 minutes can produce enough Vitamin D in adults and children.
Now coming back to living in the UK, I really have to make a point here. Besides educating my clients on good skincare, there is one thing that many unfortunately forget – UV protection. Because the majority of the time it is overcast and raining in the UK, my skincare customers often remark that they do not need to use a sun protection cream “because the sun isn’t shining” They couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, more harmful UV rays can filter through clouds which can cause just as much harm. I am also getting a response from my clients in South Africa and warmer parts of the world such as Australia and the United States that “my skin is used to the sun, so I don’t have to bother with sun protection” Eeeek!!
Besides causing premature ageing, pigmentation and skin cell damage, over exposure to harmful UV rays are the #1 cause of skin cancer according to Cancer Research UK. Of course a beautiful glowing skin makes us all feel and look good, but it is still important to use an SPF cream daily. The stronger the SPF the less UV rays absorb into the skin. Besides UV exposure, the sun also releases infrared rays, however UV is really the rays we need to protect our skin against. Below is a chart of different complexions and what strength of SPF is required to give you the most protection
Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA throughout our lifetime and it is responsible for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more powerful than UVB. They are on high intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year, and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and is mostly responsible for premature skin aging, wrinkling and pigmentation (photo aging). Until recently scientists believed that it did not cause damage to the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) where most skin cancers occur, but over the past two decades studies have shown that UVA damages skin cells called keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. UVA contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers.
UVB causes skin reddening and sunburn and damages the skin’s more superficial (epidermal) layers. It plays a big role in the development of skin cancer and contributes to tanning and photo aging. Its intensity varies by season, location, and time of day. UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as water, snow or ice as the rays bounce back up to 80 percent so that they hit the skin twice. UVB rays do not significantly penetrate glass.
So, not just in summer, but all year round, protect your skin and your health by using and SPF cream, wearing a hat and sunglasses and staying in the shade on very sunny days when UV rays are most present.