IN THE Summer months, we are increasingly aware about the health of our skin. Recently, both Portugal and Spain have been registering very high levels on the UV index, which measures the level of solar radiation that can be absorbed by human skin. Last week, Portugal was recording levels between 9 and 10 on the index (which ranges from 1-11). This level is considered ‘very high’ and has resulted in warnings being distributed to the public about taking extra care when exposed to the sun. Without taking certain measures, overexposure to the sun can cause premature ageing and pigmentation (UV-A rays), as well as an increasing chance of skin cancer (UV-B rays)
There are a number of measures we can take to protect ourselves against dangerous UV rays, without having to hide away in the shade. All skin specialists recommend using a good quality sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15. While it is vital that sunscreen is applied regularly, what many of us overlook is that it should be applied at least 15 minutes before going out in the sun (for example, before you leave home to go to the beach). This gives your body a chance to absorb the cream, making sure you are fully protected. If you get on the beach and then decide to apply it, you will still be exposed to UV rays while the cream is being absorbed.
A complementary method of protection that is gaining credibility in the world of skin care is green tea. There has been a lot of research into its protective qualities by many health organisations including the National Cancer Institute. They suggest that the protective qualities may be due to “the antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of the tea”. Green tea extract contains polyphenols; antioxidants that work against free radicals that contribute towards skin cancer and premature ageing of the skin.
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCg), the most abundant polyphenol in green tea, minimises sun damage and can bring skin cells back to life when applied topically. Green tea also contains xanthines which contribute towards the suppression of inflammation and irritation of skin cells. These polyphenols form loose bonds with the xanthines enhancing the effects of both. As a result green tea increases the SPF activity of a sunscreen product.
Instead of having to carry a flask of green tea around with you all day it is best is to leave two tea bags in a large mug of hot water for 15 minutes, pour into a spritzer bottle and cool it in the fridge. You can then spray it on yourself throughout the day, providing an extra barrier against those dangerous UV rays. It must be stated though that this should be used in addition to sun protection creams, not alone.
Another essential item you should have in your beach bag is a good lip balm with an SPF of at least 30. Lips are particularly sensitive to heat, with cracking and even cold sores resulting from excessive sun exposure. Quality sunglasses, offering UV protection in the lenses, will also prevent against ageing around the eyes, as well as protecting your vision from any potential damage.
If you spend too long in the sun without a break, you will be at high risk of getting sunstroke. Health specialists always recommend taking a hat and large T-shirt to the beach, so that when you think you’ve had enough, you can cover yourself up and find some shade. Most importantly, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep you hydrated.
Finally, if you are anxious about going out in the sun but still want to have that healthy summer glow, you can achieve a safe, natural looking tan with instant spray tanning treatments. Typically it only takes around 15 minutes, working on the outer layers of the skin. Various brands are widely available at most beauty salons and stores.