We all love to spend our leisure time outside in the sunshine, whether relaxing on a beach or indulging in some pastime or sport. But in recent years the threat of skin cancer and related skin conditions have meant using sun creams or lotions. The whole industry has grown and geared up as the market for these products has expanded and changed. These creams and lotions no longer just stop the burning, they now claim to benefit ageing, sensitive and damaged skin, and with melanomas on the rise they are more important than ever.
We all have our favourite brand of sun screen protection, but now that the whole science of sun lotion has moved into a different phase, creams that treat as they protect, we should be choosing our sun cream protection much more carefully. No longer should we choose by looking for a cheap price tag or one that has a nice scent. If your going to use a sun screen then use a good one. First off make sure it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Skin damage from the sun is mainly caused by ultraviolet rays – both UVA and UVB – and it’s the UVB rays that penetrate deep into the skin and cause skin damage such as melanoma and skin cancer.
When we buy our sun screens, another crucial ingredient are the UV filters, these are the chemical substances that act as a barrier against the sun. They fall into two groups. The synthetic/organic filters which absorb UV light. And the mineral/inorganic ones which reflect UV light. The cheaper sun screens will probably have only one of these, but high-end products can use both for protection. Think about what sun protection factor you need. Really speaking the higher the SPF, the better, and always use plenty. The sun protection factor is a measure of how well the sun screen protects against UVB rays.
If you take the time to read the label, and I know not many of us do. Look at the active ingredients, zinc, titanium and avobenzone gives the broadest protection. Also on the label it will tell you to apply the cream 30 minutes before going out in the sunshine, and to apply it liberally and well into the skin. This is especially important if you are going straight into the water. Then continue to reapply about every 30 minutes. Although many of us see a nice suntan as something healthy, most experts consider a tan an indication that the skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself against further damage. Water resistance. When you read this in the label remember, no sun screen is completely 100% water resistant. Again read the label to check what degree the water resistance is.
Recent studies have found that due to the rise of cheap package holidays in the Seventies, people in their sixties and seventies are five times more likely to have malignant melanomas than their parents. Figures taken from the East of England Cancer Registry indicate that, despite concern about young people’s tanning habits, the over-65s were the group with the increased risk of being diagnosed with melanoma at a late stage. This is when it is more likely to be fatal. When they looked at the data they found that people over 65 were three times more likely to die from malignant melanoma than their younger peers. The figures have also risen in the last 30 years.
The study concluded that it could be the result of many factors, including more frequent foreign travel, increased exposure to harmful UV rays, as well as a lack of understanding of the potential risks and what to look for in terms of potentially cancerous moles. The good news is melanoma is almost preventable if you avoid getting burnt.
Steve Richards, director of Macmillan Cancer Support feels the increase in skin cancer is due to people living longer and sun tans being fashionable. He says, "It’s not about scaring people but about taking simple steps to stay safe in the sun."
In the past going out into the sunshine could be a painful experience for some people. But the new generation sun creams are formulated for different environments and skin types. Sun sensitive people are now catered for. Those with fair eyes or skin and freckles have a built-in tendency to sun sensitivity, this means they burn easily and can’t get a proper tan. Skin complaints like rosacea and dermatitis can get worse after being in the sun. But these new sun protection creams cater for that.
In fact a certain Allergy range is specially formulated for sun sensitive skin. It combines UVA and UVB sun filters with an antioxidant called Calmanelle, which increases the skin’s tolerance to the sun. So its a case of no more hiding in the shade for those with pale skin.
The amount and variation of sun protection products has grown to the extent that it now covers help to improve pigmentation and brown spots, as it contains vitamin B3. You can also buy a tan optimizer which comes in the form of supplements, and is packed with plant extracts and vitamins. Sixty capsules is two months supply.
And remember, if you haven't any sun screen protection there is always the big hat, the long sleeved shirt and staying in the shade.