The statistics are scary: Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.
It is the most common type of cancer in Australia, and 90%-99% of skin cancer is related to sun exposure. And just in case skin cancer wasn’t enough of a deterrent, up to 90% of the visible signs of ageing, including wrinkles, are caused by sun exposure too. So, be it for health or vanity reasons, having the best possible skin comes down to sun protection and reducing sun damage.
With temperatures already on the rise, here’s what you need to know to defend yourself against the dangers of sun exposure:
Make sun protection a daily habit
Every day is a day that you need to protect yourself from overexposure from Ultraviolet (UV) rays. Not just days spent poolside or on the beach. There is no connection between UV levels and temperature and you cannot see it, hear it or feel it.
There are two types of UV rays:
UVB for Burn - Everyone, especially people with fair skin types, are familiar with the burn from UVB rays. UVA for Ageing - 95% of UV rays are UVA rays. They are with us all the time, every day, regardless of the season, and hour of daylight, or weather forecast. UVA rays are responsible for premature skin ageing, such as pigmentation, wrinkles, reduced skin elasticity, dark spots, skin yellowing and skin cancer.
They penetrate deep into our skin, not just superficial layers, and through most clothing, cloud cover and untreated glass. The damaged caused by UVA rays is irreversible. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer, so it is important to protect yourself against both. Using a sunscreen that is labelled as Broad Spectrum, just means that protection against both UVA and UVB rays is provided.
How to fight against UVA and UVB
You can fight against UVA and UVB rays by practising the Cancer Council’s Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide! message. Easy, right? But how many of us really know that this message is telling us?
The 3 most common misconceptions I see around the Slip Slop Slap message are:
1. Slip on a shirt… The Cancer Council’s Slip Slop Slap message is NOT being fulfilled by slipping on clothing of just any description. Yes, we all love our t-shirts, flowy kaftans and oh-so-versatile sarongs. But, did you know, that the average white cotton t-shirt only has a UPF (which is like SPF for clothes) of about 5? This means that it allows 1/5th of the sun’s UV rays to pass through. And remember that these UV rays are not blocked by cloud coverage or untreated glass. You need to be wearing clothing that has been specifically designed to protect you from the sun.
2. Slop on sunscreen… Get in the habit of applying a broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen every day. Remember, UVA rays are with us all the time, every day. Be generous with your sunscreen, most people do not use enough, apply it before you go outside and reapply it at least every 2 hours.
3. Slap on a hat… Yes, you need your hat to be breathable, lightweight and comfortable – but it also needs to be constructed in a fabric that offers protection. I see women wearing their big floppy straw hats and yes, they look good and provide shade, but if you can see through the weave, then those UV rays can see you too!
Like sun protection clothing, look for hats that are labeled as providing protection from UV exposure.
Don’t be a statistic
With so many great reasons to protect yourself from sun exposure and so much public education focused on skin protection, it’s hard to believe that we Aussies are not already world class superstars at sun safety. I implore you, please don’t be a statistic, learn more about sun protection, and enjoy the sun safely.
About the author:
Annaliese Allen is the founder of Honeybell Waterwear, an Australian boutique sun protection clothing label for women. Honeybell Waterwear is made from a breathable fabric that is certified as providing UPF 50+ protection, the highest possible rating available.
Image courtesy of Styelle Swim