The sun: Just how well are you protected?

 

You’ve heard a million times before. Wear sun protection. Every day. All day.

And, most likely, you’re quite diligent with sunscreen application when you know you’re going out into the sun, when going to the beach, a braai or swimming. But what about when you’re driving, popping out for lunch or while you’re at the office?

Sure, you’ll say, you have an arsenal of beauty and make-up products that all come loaded with SPF and you never leave the house without applying at least one or two. But ask yourself, is that single application enough to last you all day? Have you read the manufacturer’s instructions and are you sure that the product 100% guarantees all-day protection?

Probably not. Even specialist sun-protecting products will advise regular reapplication as needed. Advanced sun-defence formulations such as Lamelle’s Luminesce Brighter Defence 30 and Nourish Multi-Active Sun 30’s directions clearly state that you should apply it “10 minutes before sun exposure”, as in every time before you go into the sun, and it must be “reapplied if you are perspiring or swimming”.

Even South Africa’s absolute cream of sun protection and photo-correction, Helase 50, requires reapplication every two to four hours in the sun.

So, let’s look at how well you are protected, really.

Fair warning: it’s a little scary.

Sun damage: the facts

  • Sun exposure over a period of time accelerates the ageing process in the skin (photo-ageing)
  • Sun exposure causes direct and indirect (oxidative stress) damage that can lead to skin cancer
  • South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world (Australia is first)
  • Your body is not fully equipped to heal every kind of DNA damage the sun does to it
  • Estimates that less than 30% of people protect themselves adequately from sun damage are generous at best ­– that figure is probably much lower

How many people wear sunscreen?

You’d be surprised at how many people only use sunscreen occasionally or exclusively on their face. Worse yet, there are millions of people who don’t wear sunscreen at all. We can only guess at the exact local statistics, but a 2015 study by the American Academy of Dermatology found that only 29.9% of women use sunscreen regularly. And only 14.3% of men do.

It’s no wonder then that skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the world (according to the CDC and cancer.org).

According to the study, at least one in every five people will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. And protecting yourself against UV exposure is the best way to reduce your risk. To that, Dawn Holman, a behavioural scientist at the CDC adds that: “Using sunscreen can reduce your risk of skin cancer and early skin ageing, but it shouldn’t be your only line of defence against the sun. It’s best to combine sunscreen with other forms of sun protection.”

But let’s say that you do prioritise sun protection. How do you ensure that nothing slips through the cracks? A good place to start is looking at your own sun-protection habits and trying to spot potential weak points.

When and where are you most vulnerable?

As we mentioned earlier, we’re all generally good at applying sun protection when we know we’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors. You know to wear a hat and protective clothing and to reapply your sunscreen when you’re at the beach, on a walk or poolside.

But what about the times when you don’t expect UV to be present, or when you’re “just quickly” going here or there? Take notes of these points of vulnerability:

  1. When it’s cloudy – 80% of UV rays pass through clouds unperturbed (complete cloud coverage can block some UVB rays), which is why people still get sunburn when it’s overcast. In fact, two studies, in 1994 in the US and in 2004 in Australia, showed that when it’s partly cloudy the “broken-cloud effect” actually boosts UV concentration on the planet surface by between 25% and 40%. So, UV damage could be even worse when it’s cloudy.
  2. During autumn and winter – another interesting fact about UV is that, although fewer of the shorter UVB rays reach the planet surface (which is why it’s hard to burn or get a tan in winter), the concentration of the longer, skin-ageing UVA rays is always the same regardless of the season. So, not protecting yourself from the sun in winter may accelerate ageing in your skin.
  3. While driving – until recently, scientists were baffled as to why skin cancer tended to develop mainly on one side of the body. In America, it’s on the left. In SA and the UK, it’s on the right. See the correlation? It’s about which side of the car we sit on while driving. Further research has shown that most of us are vulnerable inside our cars and, while most windscreens are treated to give UVA and UVB protection, the side and rear windows rarely are. If you don’t have tinted, UV-blocking windows in the car, sitting in traffic could be ageing your skin, too.
  4. Through the window – whether at home or at the office, the modern architectural- and design ethos of utilising as much natural light as possible, though good for morale, has one important downfall: glass only blocks UVB rays, leaving you open to ageing UVA damage. Even special UV-blocking glass does not block the full spectrum of light (otherwise you would be able to see through it), meaning you have to be conscious of sun protection even while at work.
  5. Relying only on sunscreen – we recently learned that broad-spectrum SPF 50 is only 53% effective against the full spectrum of UV light. This is a big deal, because, while SPF 50 is designed to protect against both UVA and UVB, it leaves you open to a further 47% of potential damage from visible and infrared light from the sun. You need a more advanced product.

How to get 100% protection from sun damage

Getting adequate protection from the sun is a two-fold strategy.

Firstly, eliminate all your vulnerabilities by making sun protection a priority 365 days a year. Wear sun protection, protective clothing and a hat and avoid the sun (seek out the shade) whenever possible every day of the year, rain or shine, winter or summer.

Secondly, go beyond the limitations of ordinary 53%-effective SPF 50 and switch up to Lamelle’s Helase 50.

More than a sunscreen, Helase 50 covers you for all the potential types of skin damage that the entire spectrum of light can inflict. It contains:

  • SPF 50 – to cover you from UVA and UVB
  • An AhR blocker – to quell collagen-killing MMPs across the full spectrum of light
  • A TRPV1 blocker – to stem oxidative stress caused by infrared light
  • Antioxidants – to combat the effects of visible and infrared light
  • 80GG–1 – to boost your body’s ability to correct DNA damage from UVB, UVA, visible and infrared light
  • Photolyase – the enzyme that’s missing from humans that can actively correct existing DNA damage across the entire spectrum of light.

Ask your skincare therapist or doctor today about including Helase 50 in your new all day, 365 days a year sun-protection strategy.