What a nice tanning you’ve got! You look very white; you have not been on holidays? These are typical comments after summer. At the same time, on the media we find alarming headlines, 50.000 people die from skin cancer every year worldwide. Contradictory elements, once more… I always use factor 50+ and thus I am not worried being all day at the beach.
Did you know that such a cream does not protect much more than a factor 20 and on the other hand it has more chemical undesirable quantities?
Moderating the time of sun exposure we can also curb the consumption of protection. This year I’m not going to get burnt!
We know it, sun is necessary (for example it permits us to synthesize vitamin D, it enhances our humour…), but without trespassing the limit. The longer we are in the sun, mainly when its rays are stronger, more harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays we get. The damage varies depending on the types of skin, if we are more or less used to the sun, of the time and the place where we are in it. Don’t let us expose to it too long.
- At our latitude, we should have enough with the sun we get dialy to synthesize enough D vitamin (five or ten minutes of sun on our arms and legs twice or three times a week).
- Let us moderate the time we are in the sun, mainly if we are fair skinned. The worst is to be sporadically in the sun for a long time (at the southern part of the Mediterranean they are very used to be in the sun). Let us think that to associate tanned skin with beauty and health is only a fashion question.
- Let us avoid the most dangerous places and hours. Here we can look up the so-called Ultraviolet Index (UVI). It is a forecast of the UV radiation levels that are expected at midday on a fixed day.
- Let us protect with hats or caps our head, face and neck. The wider they have their peaks, the more they will protect us. In summer we can cover with clothing that is not warm (wide, clear colours, natural fibres). Let us wear sun glasses having 100% protection for the UV and side protection.
- If we want to be some time in the sun, protector creams give us some time, but not “carte blanche”.
When we want or we have to extend the time in the sun or if we have to be in the sun at the time of more radiation, melanin is not enough and there appears the need to have sun protection. The main ingredient of sun protection creams are filters which can be physical (minerals) or chemical (synthetic). The first ones are surer for our health than the chemicals which interact with our biology and can produce potentially dangerous substances. Let us choose the first ones.
- A protector cream can have more than one filter, and of several types. We can know of which kind they are by reading the list of ingredients that all the protectors have to bear.
- The natural protection creams use only physical filters and contain less synthetic ingredients than the conventional ones (preservatives, artificial colourings…) Some brands are: Anne Marie Börlind, Dr. Haushcka, Santé, Santaverde. They can be found in organic stores.
The sun protection factor (SPF) of a cream measures how long the skin can be in the sun and maintain a low risk for sunburn. The more filters it has, more is the protection factor. The number of SPF is considered nowadays little accurate, because between factor 5 and 25 there is a great difference and on the contrary from 30 to 50 very little (you can see it here). This is why a new standard nomenclature is being introduced all over the world, low, medium, high and very high protection. Let us avoid that the protection factors mislead us.
- The protecting capacity of a cream with factor 15 (medium protection according to the new nomenclature) is considerable, it lets pass a 7% of UVB rays and as a maximum, 70% of UVA. But this will not avoid the harmful effects if we are in the sun for a long time; no cream protects us 100%. The European legislation does not allow that the labels include any appeal that may induce you to believe that you are fully protected (as for example total screen or sun block). In the United States the creams with a factor superior to 30 that practically block all the UVB rays and a third of UVA) are forbidden to avoid an excessive confidence of the user.
- Factor 30 or up (high or very high) is meant for extreme cases (such as high mountain) or pathological ones (allergy to sun, for example).
- In the creams based on chemical filters, a high factor implies a bigger quantity of potentially dangerous substances. Those which bases are physical filters don’t usually have more than 30, because the resulting cream would be very thick and difficult to spread.
A badly used cream is not effective, and even it can be worse that no cream at all. We usually lay four times less of it than necessary. Let us use protectors properly.
- Let us spread the cream half an hour before going in the sun, mainly if it has chemical filters. The skin must be quite dry and without sweating.
- Sprays have to be well shaken before applying them, and some tubes also (let us look if the manufacturer indicates it thus).
- Don’t spare protector. It is recommended to put six teaspoons for an adult body. Some creams with physical filters are difficult to spread. We can’t be too lazy to do it.
- Don’t forget to protect the eyelids and all the eyes round, ears and lips.
- Let us apply again the cream, before we have spent two hours in the sun. To replace it is very important principally for those creams made with chemical products. In that case, not to do it can be more harmful than not having applied any protector.
- It is necessary to put cream again after bathing, drying or sweating, even if the cream says it is water resistant.
- If we are already burnt it is necessary to drink a lot of water or juices rich in vitamin C. For alleviating the burning we can take carrot or watermelon juice. The almond oil makes the skin not to peel so much. So that the rubbing of the linen or the sheets don’t disturb us we can put frozen flour on the burnt parts; for regenerating the skin, asparagus or apple vinegar.
- At home, the creams have to be kept at a cold and dry place. If placed in a car in the sun they will get spoilt.
The effect of the sun on us also has to do with how we eat.
- The food rich in carotene favours the production of melanin. In general, they are of orange-like colour (carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, apricots…) and also others like spinaches, parsley, watercress or broccoli. Some of the harmful effects of UV rays are contra rested by vitamins A (we obtain them from the same food than carotenes), C (red pepper, parsley, fruit…) and E (nuts and dry fruit, asparagus, olives…).
- While we are in the sun it is good to drink liquids, mainly water, and to eat fruit.