Our skin is the largest organ of our body and has a number of important functions including protecting our internal organs. However, regardless of the colour of our skin, it is susceptible to damage from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun.
Any change from our natural skin colour is a sign of damage to the skin.
Here in Cayman our proximity to the equator means that we have a high risk of exposure year-round and that we have a lot of incidental exposure to the sun. Incidental exposure is the exposure we get from going about our daily routine; in other words non-deliberate exposure to the sun.
There are several steps that we can take to minimize our risk. First, we should try and stay inside or seek the shade between 10am and 4pm when the sun’s rays are at their most intense. This is not always practical so we should strive to protect our skin by wearing clothes that cover as much of our body as possible. Dark, tight fitting clothes with a close weave are better than light, loose clothing. Dry clothing is better than wet – a wet white T-shirt offers no protection from the sun!
In addition we should remember that wide brimmed hats offer good protection for our face, neck and ears but be aware that straw hats may not offer the best protection – the holes in the weave of the straw allow the sun’s rays through.
Sunglasses are also an important tool in our sun protection toolbox. Just as when we buy food we are encouraged to read the label you are encouraged to read the label when buying sunglasses and be sure it says the lens block out at least 99 per cent of UV rays. Wraparound shades that cover the entire eye area including the eyelid are the best.
Sunscreen remains an important item to protect you from the sun and all of us should make its application a part of our daily routine. The key is to apply it before you leave the house and to reapply it frequently throughout the day to dry skin.
Despite claims of ‘waterproof’, ‘sweat proof’ and other similar expressions sunscreen will lose its effectiveness during the course of the day hence the need to reapply. The average adult needs two tablespoons or the equivalent of a shot glass of sunscreen per application!
Sunscreen comes in a variety of forms and while some types are better for specific areas of the body such as a ‘stick’ for around the eyes and on the lips and ears it is a matter of personal choice which you use.
Look for sunscreen with a SPF factor of 30 or higher and check the ingredients in your sunscreen. Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Ingredients that indicate this include oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and Parsol 1789 (avobenzone).
For more information on how to protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun, and the potentially disfiguring and deadly effects of skin cancer call the Cayman Islands Cancer Society at 949-7618.