One of the joys of summer is having a braai with family and friends, spending time at the beach or pool, or going for a long cycle, but don’t forget that now is the most dangerous time of year for UV rays. Make sure you’re well protected.
Before setting foot onto the beach, read this:
- Start your sun exposure with caution. Don’t go between 11am and 3pm and limit yourself to 20 minutes the first few days, building up gradually to a maximum of 45 minutes.
- Applying sunscreen doesn’t mean you are safe. In fact it is the last line of defence. The Slip-Slop-Slap campaign from Australia (leaders in skin cancer statistics) says it best: The best protection from the sun is to slip on a shirt, slop on a hat and slap on some sunscreen.
- Beach bathing is particularly dangerous. Don’t think you’re protected just when sitting under an umbrella — you get a triple dose of radiation from the sun, and reflected rays from the white sand and the sea, which is why you shouldn’t be out there for longer than an hour.
- Choose your sunscreen carefully. It must offer both UVA and UVB protection. Look for the words “broad screen” and the circle with UVA on the packaging, which means that the product offers both good levels of UVA and UVB protection. Don’t forget to re-apply every two hours, or more frequently if swimming.
- Be particularly careful about sun protection with children as their delicate skins are easily burnt, and it is said that it only takes about four sunburns in youth to increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. Make sure they are covered with a hat and a protective UV swimsuit, and that they wear high-factor, water-resistant sunscreen (reapply it after each swim).
- Don’t use last season’s leftover sunscreen. Buy a fresh bottle every year.
- The amount required to effectively protect your body is about a third of an average tube of sunscreen. Apply the lotion about 20 minutes before going into the sun, this ensures it is absorbed, so you’re less likely to burn. Apply a SPF 50+ sunscreen to your nose and ears. Look for one of the light-textured, tinted facial sunscreens, which give you protection and a lovely glow.
Applying the rules
- Head: Sunburn in the hair parting is really painful, and it’s worse if you’re thinning on top. So wear a hat or cap in a tightly woven fabric or slap on some protection. For hairy men, use a sun protection spray that gives you light, non-greasy protection and is easy to rub in.
- Face: As the most exposed area on your body, it’s quick to show sun damage. You can give it double protection with a sunscreen for faces, which will contain protective ingredients such as antioxidants and moisturisers as well as sun protection.
- Ears, nose, lips: Often forgotten, these tender areas regularly get burnt (and show up with skin cancer later in life). Sticks are convenient and great for easy application. Choose ones that are minimum SPF 30. Lip balm with SPF30 will help to protect your lips from burning and blistering.
- Hair: Blonde or colour-treated hair especially needs protection against wind, salt water and chlorine. Wear a leave-in UV hair protector (the packaging is usually red) to stop your colour fading and prevent your hair turning to straw.
- Body: The largest area needs good protection, especially for water sports. Don’t forget to reapply if you sweat heavily or if you are in and out of the pool regularly.
- Backs of neck and knees: These areas are often overlooked as well, and sunburn here can be excruciating. It could put you out of action, as swollen knees may be hard to bend.
- Hands: These get a lot of sun exposure when driving (check out your right arm and compare the colour and freckles with your left one). Skin on hands is very thin and prone to ageing. To avoid liver spots, make sure you slather sunscreen on your hands and arms.
- Feet: Forget these and you could end up hobbling painfully on swollen trotters for days. Feet, like hands, have very little protective fat and thin skin, so they can get fried quite badly.
Your essential packing list for a day outdoors — don’t go anywhere in the sun without:
- A beach umbrella
- A broad-brimmed, tightly woven hat
- Sunglasses with certified UV protection
- A long-sleeved, covering garment
- Water to drink and to spray on your face to keep you cool and hydrated. Add a couple of mint leaves and cucumber for a deliciously refreshing drink. Keep it fresh in a mini chiller.
After the fact
Apply after-sun moisturiser every night to soothe skin and make your glow last longer. If you do get sun burnt, make sure you use a soothing, cooling after sun with aloe.
The bearable lightness of legs
Hot weather can leave you with swollen, aching legs, and standing for hours in your gorgeous heels may become an ordeal. The simple solution is to use a “heavy legs” relieving product. Apply them directly on your legs in an upwards, circular direction and feel their ingredients cool and refresh your legs and stimulate circulation.
Or you could make your own aromatherapy blend: Use three tablespoons of liquid coconut, sweet almond oil or even canola oil as your base. Add two or three drops each of lemongrass, grapefruit and cypress essential oils (safe for use during pregnancy). Mix the ingredients together with a toothpick. Apply the mixture on the affected areas and massage for five to ten minutes. Repeat two or three times daily. Keep it cool in the fridge to add an even more cooling effect.
Remember to put your feet up at least twice a day. Then you can dance the night away.
Fake it, don’t bake it
If you really want to get a bronzed body, the only way to do it healthily is to fake it. Find a brand with a good reputation and repeat the exercise every few days. The rules of the game: exfoliate skin thoroughly, massage self-tanner on evenly and smoothly and make sure you cover the whole area (using a tinted version helps you see where you’re applying), moisturise skin well later.
Citrus scents are proven to be mood-lifters in a bottle. Give yourself some zest for life and an instant energy burst with a citrus-scented fragrance. For the more aromatherapeutically inclined, any citrus essential oil or even sniffing a lemon will do the trick.
Tip: don’t wear any fragrance or citrus oil on your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight, as this can trigger dark pigmentation. Either apply it in covered areas or save it for after dark.
Whether you’re planning a weekend away or preparing for your next holiday, you can half the stress of holiday travel by paring down your luggage. Be honest — you don’t really need everything you intend to pack. A few beauty essentials are all you need to look after your skin and look good.
Try to get products that do double duty. Here’s a good selection to pack:
- Moisturiser with a sun protection factor. Even better: a BB or CC Cream, which gives you moisture, sun protection and a light tint to give your skin a radiant glow.
- Your favourite fragrance’s spray deodorant. Don’t wear fragrance in the sun as it can cause skin pigmentation unless it is specifically designed as a sun mist.
- Decant your big bottle of shampoo and conditioner into those travel dinkies. Or buy them when you get to your destination.
- Throughout the year, keep an eye on skin care special offers that give you travel sizes as a gift. Stash them for your holiday.
Things to buy when you get there as you will need a lot for the family: sunscreen, after sun, and body lotion.
Sun care glossary
UVA radiation causes premature ageing, wrinkles, dark spots and loss of elasticity. It’s also known to cause enhanced growth of pre-cancers and skin cancers.
UVB causes a tan, but it also causes burning and the formation of pre-cancers and skin cancers.
UVC are cancer-causing UV rays, but they are blocked by the earth’s protective shields.
IR Infra Red rays, which cause overheating and burning of the skin.
Melanin is the protective pigment in your skin that is triggered by sunlight.