According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen plays a key role in a sun protection strategy but alone, it is not enough to keep you safe under the sun. You even need to apply sunscreen when it is cloudy as well.

When used correctly, the use of an appropriate SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of cancer and help to prevent premature aging.

Who should use sunscreen?
Everyone under the sun! Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed parts of the skin. Ideally, it should be applied about 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapplied every two hours. Babies under the age of 6 months or so have highly sensitive skins so they should be kept out of the sun, have adequate shade structures and wear sun- protected clothing.

What type of sunscreen should you use?
There are so many choices available – it’s best to talk to your pharmacist about which sunscreens are best for you. There’s mineral and chemical variety sunscreens, and we also have different skin traits such as sensitive, dry, normal, or a combination. For swimming or intense exercise the sunscreen would also need to be water resistant (but this will wash off so you will need to reapply the sunscreen frequently). The common thread is that the sunscreen should be SPF15 or higher.

What does SPF mean?
The SPF number refers mainly to the amount of UVB protection provided. If you’re out there for short periods, an SPF15 or higher is generally acceptable. If you’re outside for longer, you should look at a SPF30 or higher. This means that if you apply SPF30 correctly, it would take you 30 times longer to burn compared to using no sunscreen.

What else should be considered when choosing sunscreen?
Your skin type and family history can determine the level of protection needed, as well as certain medications being taken and any disorders which can make your skin more sensitive.

What myths need to be debunked regarding sun protection?

CANSA (Cancer Association South Africa) warns against the following myths regarding the sun and skin cancer:

  • The sun is only dangerous in summer or on a hot day.
  • Sunscreen will protect you completely.
  • One or two cases of sunburn won’t result in skin cancer in later years.
  • People with darker skins are not at risk of getting skin cancer.
  • Sunbeds are a safer alternative to obtaining a tan.

These are all myths!

While an essential part of a sun protection strategy, sunscreen alone is not enough to manage the risk of skin cancer. Look for shade wherever possible, wear sun-protected clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, use UV blocking sunglasses, and wherever possible, avoid being out there in the sun.

“Before enjoying the outdoor freedom of the holidays and randomly selecting a sunscreen product, make a point of talking to your Link pharmacist about using a sunscreen that’s right for you. Also ask the pharmacist about how much you need to apply and how often you should reapply it”, says Link’s Ryan Conybeare.

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While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article, information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose. No content in this article, irrespective of the date or reference source, should be viewed as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, pharmacist or any other suitably qualified clinician.