Sun Protection: The Smart Way


Today the weather in Botswana is once again stiflingly hot. At a scorching 35 Degrees Celsius in Gaborone where I live, I feel for my family up North in Maun, where the temperature is a sweltering 40 Degrees Celsius. I thought we were done with the heat waves this summer before the winter starts to roll in around May, but apparently not! Just when I was on the verge of rubbing my hands gleefully and putting away my umbrella, I hear that it’s set to be even hotter next summer! Armed with this knowledge, it becomes glaringly obvious to me that I still need the sunscreen, sun hats, umbrella and everything else I need to protect myself from the dangers of the sun.

Interestingly, despite the increasingly well known dangers of prolonged sun exposure, a lot of us sometimes get lazy and let this knowledge fall by the way side. I often see people in this town wading through the sun completely unprotected, with no water bottle insight. What’s more, when questioned, a lot of them admit to not wearing any sunscreen at all! As if it needs repeating, if we carry on in this fashion, heat rash, sunburn, heatstroke, premature ageing and dehydration will be the very least of our worries because there are other more drastic risks to our skin like skin cancer to consider.

Please don’t put your skin at risk, and instead, choose to protect yourself from the sun by incorporating these tips into your daily skincare routine:

  • Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 20; read the packaging to ensure it offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. If you go swimming, ensure your sunscreen is waterproof
  • Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you venture out to allow it to settle into your skin before exposure. A trick I’ve also heard of, which I’m not entirely sure about; is that you can also apply a thin layer of sunscreen before bed as this preps your skin to better absorb it when you apply it next day. This I’ve learnt, is particularly good for people with very fair skin
  • Look out for non-comedogenic sunscreen that won’t clog up your skin and cause breakouts. Today advances in beauty products offer a wide array of luxurious, light sunscreen formulations to choose from
  • Whether it’s sunny or cloudy, winter or summer; lather on your sunscreen!
  • When applying sunscreen, most people just focus on the face, as if it’s the only area they want to protect from the sun! Be careful not to miss your neck, the back of your hands, your chest and the tip of your nose and ears, which are all areas that get a lot of sun exposure but are often overlooked. The tops of your ears are areas to particularly keep an eye on because that’s where cancer tends to show up. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation has found that 80 % of skin cancer occurs around the head, neck and hand areas. The tops of your feet are another area to consider, if you choose to wear shoes that expose them
  • Reapply your sunscreen every few hours. For us ladies who wear makeup, this can be a challenge, that’s why I’m never without lightly tinted powder sunscreen. I personally believe very strongly that it’s the best thing since sliced bread!
  • Use sun-protecting lipstick or lip balm because lips can also do with protecting from the UV rays.
  • Unbeknownst to most people, women are most susceptible to sun damage the week before their menstrual cycle; so wear extra sunscreen and avoid aggressive face treatments that are likely to make your skin even more sensitive to UV rays during that time.
  • If you can, try to avoid being outside between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m, when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their most intense. If like me however, you have absolutely no choice; ensure you wear long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim, carry an umbrella with you at all times and don’t forget your sunscreen.
  • Some medicines such as tetracycline and diuretics as well as herbal ones like St John’s Wort are known to make skin sensitive to UV rays, so take extra care when you’re on them

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