Protecting your skin from the sun

by | May 6, 2013

Learn how to minimise the harmful effects of the rays and be safe going outdoors.


BY: Eleanor Yap


There is no avoiding the sun, however you can learn ways on how best to protect your skin.

We can’t avoid the sun but there are certain things we can do to minimise the harmful effects of the rays.

Ageless Online checks in with Dr Chong Wei Sheng, senior consultant dermatologist and head of the Photodermatology Unit at the National Skin Centre, to find out some important things we should keep in mind:


Why are the sun’s rays bad for you? Can you explain the different types of UV (ultraviolet) lights?

UV radiation is divided into UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is absorbed and blocked off by the ozone layer, thus it does not reach the earth surface. UVB is the shorter wavelength UV radiation that can be effectively blocked off by clouds and window glass, but not the longer wavelength UVA. UV rays are harmful as they can cause sunburns, skin cancers, photoageing, skin pigmentation and some sunlight-sensitive skin diseases (such as light sensitive eczema, solar urticaria, etc).


In purchasing sunblock, what are some things to keep in mind? Is it best to buy a separate sunblock for the face and the body?

The SPF (sun protection factor) should be between 30 to 50+ or 60. SPF 30 to 50+ is more than sufficient depending on what activity you are using it for. For instance, if you were doing water sports, maybe a higher SPF would be ideal and be sure to apply it evenly at least 30 minutes before going into the sun.

There is no need to get separate sunblocks for the face and the body.


Going out to play golf? Don't forget your sunblock and protective clothing.

How often should we reapply sunblock?

Every two to three hours, if not perspiring excessively or doing outdoor sports or swimming. If you are, then reapply every one to two hours.


I understand in cloudy days, sunblock should be applied. Why is that?

Because some UV rays, especially the longer wavelength UVA rays, can penetrate clouds, thus sunblock should still be applied.


People tend to miss certain areas of their body when applying sunblock. Could you comment on this?

People should remember that sunblock must be applied to ear regions as well as this region is often missed.


Besides sunblock, what other ways can seniors protect themselves?

Sunglasses that have a UV-protection label can help to prevent eye damage from UV rays that may lead to cataracts, and lip balm with SPF can help protect the lips. Protective clothing such as hats (with a wide brim that covers your neck, ears, eyes and scalp) and gloves are important as well.


I have noticed people covering themselves up and even having an umbrella when they go out. Do you think that may be overdoing it, as some sun is important to get vitamin D?

Sensible sun protection is the keyword. It is true that it is important to get some sun (without sun protection) to get vitamin D (to absorb calcium), and it has been shown that exposing to the sun for a few minutes two to three times per week is sufficient to manufacture enough vitamin D in the skin.


If you are out swimming, do reapply your sunblock every one to two hours.

What time is best to avoid the sun?

People should avoid going out in the sun between 10am and 4pm as during this period is when the UV rays are the strongest and most damaging to the skin.


If a senior get sunburned with skin peeling, what are some solutions to remedy this?

When sunburn occurs, stay indoors, shower with cold water to cool the skin and put lots of moisturisers (preferably cold) to soothe the skin. Topical steroids can also be applied to the skin to ease the sunburned skin inflammation. It takes about three to four days to a week to go away completely, depending on the severity of the sunburn.


So solariums and tanning beds are also out of the question?

These increase the total UV radiation your skin gets. It is just like getting more sun. It increases the risk of skin cancers, which is the major concern now across the world.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: sexy feet 4, obyvatel, stock.xchng; get ready ball 2, bgled, stock.xchng; sitting in the sun, encasey, stock.xchng)



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