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By Dr. Sally Shaw

We all want to look fresh and healthy and somehow the idea of having a tan has become accepted in popular culture. There are many proven therapies that can help our skin; Vitamin A, Vitamin B, peptides and peels, but exposure to UV rays is not one of them.

After a day, or even a minute in the sun, our skin becomes red from inflammation. The immune system rushes blood to the area to heal it. This stress can cause a lowered immunity because UV can then kill the immune cells. The next few days the melanin migrates to the surface of the skin to protect from further damage, this is the brown look that is trying to block the sun. After that, it’s cell death, DNA changes and possibly  skin cancer. Using bronzers and tanning creams is a much better alternative but the ideal path to looking fresh and healthy is to avoid UV damage. Sunscreen is your best beauty cream.

When using sunscreen most people get confused about dosage. SPF is a grading that shows how many UV rays reach the skin. If its SPF 50, 1 ray in 50 will reach the skin, that’s 2%. If it’s SPF 25, 1 ray in 25 reaches the skin, so that’s 4%, and so the difference is only 2%.

It’s important to apply the right amount of sunscreen. Generally you should apply 2 x 50c piece sized amounts to your face, 1 x 50c piece for neck, 2 for the forearms, 2 for the legs, 2 for the arms and 2 for thighs etc.

Check the use-by date and storage conditions of your sunscreen. If it has been sitting in your car for a year it will not stand up to SPF rating claims. Most sunscreens becomes inactive in 50 degrees heat in the car.

With this in mind, wear a sunscreen you like, find a texture, scent, that you will wear in adequate concentration. Enjoy the sun, but remember your best beauty product, and be fresh and healthy for summer and the rest of your life.

Dr Sally Shaw is founder of Peninsula Skin Cancer Clinic and The Wellness Manor in Mornington. She is Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland for Skin Cancer Medicine and has been awarded for her work on skin cancer prevention by Melanoma Institute Australia.


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