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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Do Black People Really Need To Wear Sunscreen?


There is the misguided and universal belief that darker skinned people don’t need to wear sunscreen as the melanin in their skin protects them from burning as well as skin cancer. If you ask many Black people if they wear sunscreen, many of them will readily admit to not seeing the importance. Some will even react incredulously, or even laugh at the “absurdity” of the question.

In reality, the idea that Black people do not need sunscreen could not be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, the following information is more accurate:

  • It has been medically established that although the darker the person, the less likely they are to get sunburnt; the melanin in a Black person’s skin only provides approximately 15 per cent of the required protection
  • Even though Black skin takes longer to burn, all skin colours do eventually get sunburnt
  • Black skin is more susceptible to hyperpigmentation; the formation of unsightly dark spots or patches on the face. I have in fact, experienced this first hand, and have had to battle the effects over the years
  • Once the uneven skin tone has formed, it can be extremely difficult to reverse the damage. Effective remedies tend to be very expensive; and far out of reach for most people, due to financial constraints and/or lack of knowledge about options available to them
  • Regardless of skin tone, UV rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage DNA skin cells. This damage may lead to skin cancer including melanoma, which in turn could lead to death
  • It has also been established that people of colour have a higher mortality rate with skin cancer because they are often not diagnosed until the cancer is advanced, making it more aggressive and harder to treat

Given how intensely hot it gets in Botswana, I believe that there needs to be a drive to educate people further about the hazards of UVA/UVB rays. People need to be made aware of the importance of wearing at least SPF 15 sunscreen, and wearing a hat or using an umbrella for further protection. I personally use SPF 50. It is imperative that you wear sunscreen whether it is hot or overcast, because the dangerous UVA/UVB rays can still penetrate through the clouds and cause irreparable damage. This is why people still get sunburnt on cloudy days. Even when you’re not leaving the house, it is advised that you still wear sunscreen indoors.

Sunscreen is the mainstay of my beauty regime. No day goes by when I don’t wear sunscreen. After my first shower of the day; come rain or shine, I lather the stuff on religiously. I have read over and over that even when it is overcast, UV rays can still have damaging effects on skin. I have previously developed heavily hyperpigmented skin due to not wearing sunscreen. It causes distress, knocks your confidence and can take years to reverse, if at all. This is the reason I always preach to anyone who will listen, about the importance of wearing sunscreen.

The bottom line is regardless of skin colour, texture or type; every single one of us needs to wear sunscreen every day. It’s a very easy step to incorporate into our daily routine, yet it could very well play a huge role in saving our skin health and indeed our lives.


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Sunscreen- Do I Really Need It?


People often think that because I have dark skin, I don’t burn! Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s this widespread misconception even among black people that darker skinned people are not at risk of getting sun burnt or skin cancer. Dermatologists the world over have their work cut out for them, as they endeavour to set the record straight. Black skin may offer more protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays than light skin, but nobody is immune to the dangers caused by the sun.

Because of this, I wear sunscreen religiously and never tire of preaching about the importance of sun protection to my friends and family. You’d even be forgiven for thinking I was getting some commission for it! Sunscreen is therefore the mainstay of my beauty regime. No day goes by when I don’t wear sunscreen. Straight after my shower; come rain or shine, I lather the stuff on. I have read over and over that even when it’s overcast, UV rays still have damaging effects on skin.

My personal favourite sunscreen is of the physical variety as opposed to the chemical. Physical sunscreen; also known as natural sunscreen, typically contains zinc oxide. The higher the zinc content the better, because zinc is a natural sunscreen, and therefor offers better protection.

I would recommend Obagi Nu-Derm Sunshield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 as it goes on matte, which all the ladies will be grateful for. It also doesn’t leave the obvious grey cast, which is very common with physical sunscreen. Not quite a good look on dark skin!

I also love natural powder sunscreen, especially lightly tinted ones. These allow you to top up your sunscreen through the day, soaking up any greasy patches without messing up your makeup. I really like them, even though they’re very expensive, they are well worth it.

I no longer use any chemical sunscreens, as I used to burn anyway. I hate that they also irritate my skin and sting my eyes. Physical sunscreen can be very light and luxurious, whereas I’m yet to find a single chemical sunscreen of a quality that compares to that of physical sunscreen.

Have you heard of physical or natural sunscreen? Do you have any you swear by that you’d happily recommend?

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