Did you know…
Protecting uncovered skin has been a common practice for thousands of years amongst men and women living close to the equator. During the slavery period in Western countries, slave labourers working on the land used to lubricate their skin with vegetable oil to protect themselves from the influence of the sunrays and to prevent dehydration. Not only was their skin protected against the effects of the UV rays, but their skin was hydrated and tanned evenly at the same time.
However, In Western countries, the importance of skin protection came much later. In 1938, the first commercial sunscreen product was launched by Franz Grieter. In the 1970s, it became commonplace among the white population to lubricate their skin, after links between the increase in skin cancer and sun exposure was better understood.
What does sun protection actually do?
Sunscreen products consist of chemical (man-made) and physical (naturally occurring) sun blockers. Chemical sun ingredients absorb UV-B sun rays and the physical solar blockers reflect the UV- A and UV-B sun rays. Natural ingredients with an SPF can be found more commonly in tropical countries, whereas man made ingredients with an SPF are used in Western countries.
Understanding what SPF means and which to pick?
An SPF refers to the time it takes for the skin to turn red under the influence of UV radiation. If you quickly turn red in the sun, for example within 30-60 minutes, you need to protect your skin something like a factor 50. Note, the reddening of the skin is a pre-stage of a burn. The number after the SPF stands for the amount of time your skin has optional protection, in the case of SPF 50, your skin enjoys optimal protection for 50 minutes. If your skin doesn't turn red quickly but tans quickly, an SPF 30 can be enough.
When is the best time to protect?
Apply a skin protection at least 30 minutes before you go outdoors. This gives the product time to be activated. Sunscreen products for children play by different rules as they are immediately activated.
What to look out for in a good sunscreen?
It contains no, or minimal amount of perfume
It lists the presence of 1 or both physical solar ingredients, such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide
It does not leave a blue/grey haze on the skin
Tips for protecting your skin
Stay out of the sun at the hottest time of the day between 11am and 3pm. During this period, you are most likely to burn or suffer other skin damage
For optimal protection, reapply the sunscreen every 1.5-2 hours or earlier if you sweat a lot, have been in the pool or wiped your skin
Sun spray doesn’t offer the same level of protection as suntan lotion, as it does not completely cover the skin in order to properly reflect or absorb the UV- A and UV-B rays. Additionally, oils burn faster and easier on the skin, so skin irritation can easily occur
After opening the sunscreen product, it can be kept for a maximum of 12 months, as the level of solar protection decreases over time
So with that said, be careful this summer and don’t forget to load up on your suntan lotion!
Written in collaboration with MellaCare