Summer is a great time of year when we can all really enjoy the warmth of the sun and make the most of the great outdoors. However our southern hemisphere sunshine is very intense and we need to remember that as well as enjoying the sunshine we also need to protect our skin. If we get too much sun without protecting our skin it can lead to sunburn and also puts us at risk of developing skin cancers in later life. The good news is you can be safe and SunSmart this summer. “The best SunSmart advice”, say Self Care pharmacists, is to follow the five SunSmart steps “Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap and Stay.”
- Slip – into a shirt with collar and sleeves
- Slop – on some sunscreen
- Slap – on a hat with a wide-brim or a cap with flaps
- Wrap – on a pair of sunglasses (close-fitting, wrap-around, ones). UV radiation is just as dangerous to eyesight as it is for the skin
- Stay in the shade for protection
Sunburn can happen very quickly and the skin can turn red and be tender or hurt to touch. It can be very uncomfortable getting sun burnt and in more severe cases swelling and blisters can develop. Extreme sunburn can have symptoms of fever, chills, nausea and vomiting and hospital care may be needed. We should do all that we can to avoid these situations.
The sun burns our skin and over time causes permanent damage through skin ageing. Natural skin pigments give some protection, but not from long-term sun exposure. “We all know getting sun burnt is bad, but most people still think a tan is okay. The reality is that tanned skin is damaged skin.
Did you know that it isn’t necessary to have a very sunny or hot day to become sun burnt? Sunburn can still happen on cooler, cloudy and overcast days The Sun Protection Alert can help you here as it tells you the exact time each day when you should use sun protection no matter where you are in New Zealand. This can be found in your daily paper with the weather, or on TV3 weather and also on the MetService and Sunsmart websites. NIWA also measures the intensity of UV radiation and this is known as the UV index or UVI. At nighttime the UVI is zero. During the day when UVI goes above 3 then sun protection is needed.
How much sunscreen do I need to use? Self Care Pharmacists will recommend at least one teaspoon for each arm and leg and half a teaspoon for your face, nose, ears and neck. More people get sunburned on their face and neck than any other part of the body, so apply well in these areas and don’t forget the ears!
Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply often (every 2 to 3 hours). This needs to be done even if it isn’t sunny, as the sunscreen gets worn off, or rubbed off and comes off after swimming. Sunscreen is recommended for everyone to use, for all skin types. Self Care pharmacists are able to advise on the sunscreen product that is the most suitable for you and your family.
Look after your sunscreens. Just like our skin, sunscreens ‘age’ in the sun and heat, and their UV-protecting properties can be destroyed. So don’t leave them in the sun, or in the car’s glove box for too long. Also, don’t keep them past their ‘use by’ dates as they do lose their effectiveness.
Your Self Care pharmacist can provide you with a lot more SunSmart information and the right type of sunscreen for everyone. Call in and ask, especially about the UVI, and recommendations for your family and while you’re there check out the Skin Cancer Self Care fact card.
Prepared by Pharmacy Self Care, Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand Inc, PO Box 11640, Wellington