Too much of the sizzling sunshine can lead to painful skin burns. So if you’re already reaching for your aloe vera, you’re probably no stranger to sunburn. Wherever in New Zealand you are, it can take as little as 15 minutes of midday sun exposure to burn your skin. Depending on how closely you resemble a lobster, it can take days or even weeks to heal – and the damage can be more than skin deep.
According a report by The Cancer Society of New Zealand in ’09, more than 80,000 Kiwis get non-melanoma skin cancer every year. And more than 2,000 melanomas are reported to the New Zealand Cancer Registry every year! And in recent years, more New Zealanders are reported to die from melanoma than on our roads. The good news is that most melanomas can be successfully treated by your doctor.
So we thought we’d help shed light on some of the biggest sun safety myths to help keep you safe in the outdoors.
Myth 1: Sunscreen is only necessary on sunny days
You can get sunburnt even with the clouds.
The fact is sunburn isn’t caused by the sun, but by ultra violet radiation (also known as UV rays). These can easily penetrate the clouds and give you a burn. In fact, sun damage may even be more intense on overcast days due to UV rays reflecting off the clouds. The worst sunburns tend to happen when you least expect them, so whatever the weather, make sure sun safety is front of mind whenever you’re outdoors and apply a layer of SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen before you step out.
Myth 2: I tan easily so don’t burn
Whatever your skin type – fair, dark or freckled – prolonged exposure to UV rays may cause damage. People who tan easily or are naturally dark skinned have a lower risk than people with fair skin that burns easily but they are still at risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Occurrence of skin cancer is rarer for dark skinned people, but when it is detected, it is often at a late stage and more dangerous. Prevention and early detection is the key to protecting yourself from skin cancer. So, make sure you get a skin check.
Myth 3: I need plenty of sun exposure to avoid vitamin D deficiency
True that UV rays are a fantastic source of vitamin D, but you don’t need much time in the sun for this. For most people, adequate vitamin D levels are reached through regular incidental exposure to the sun. This could be a few minutes of UV exposure on your hands or arms in the early morning or late afternoon.
Don’t forget, there are some great sources of vitamins inside the house too – in your kitchen. It’s easy to add vitamin D-rich food such as canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms and salmon into your diet. Plus, vitamin D supplements can assist if you need.
Myth 4: I should apply sunscreen when I step outside
To be effective, most sunscreen brands need at least 15-20 minutes from application time. So remember to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you step out in the sun. And, make sure you reapply at regular intervals as suggested by the sunscreen manufacturer.
Myth 5: Sunscreen doesn’t go out of date
Like most other things, sunscreens have a shelf life. If you find yourself digging into your bag or looking for sunscreen at the bottom of the drawer, make sure you check its expiry before using it.
Typically, sunscreens are effective for three years after being opened, but that’s dependant on them being stored correctly – in a cool, dark place. Sunscreens left in the hot places lose their effectiveness.