Prevention and early detection can be your best defence when it comes to the harmful effects of the sun. Knowing how to choose the right sunscreen can put you on the right track to better protection and possibly save your life.


But one trip to the sunscreen aisle can leave anyone confused. Waterproof, sweatproof, UVA, UVB, SPF 15, 50 or 100…how do you know what will provide the best protection for your skin?

Actually, there’s much about sunscreen many people don’t know and don’t understand. And if you aren’t doing sunscreen right, you literally risk your life every time you expose your skin to the harsh SA sunshine.


Here are tips and information that can help you understand how to make sure your sunscreen is providing the protection you need.


UV rays are double trouble

The sun produces two types of ultraviolet rays that harm your skin. Ultraviolet A rays don’t cause sunburn, but they can cause wrinkles and skin cancer. In fact, 90 percent of skin changes associated with aging are caused by exposure to UVA rays. Traditional sunscreen works primarily against Ultraviolet B rays that cause sunburn and are also harmful to your skin.


Understand SPF

SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and the rating refers only to the blockage of UVB rays. The SPF factor rates how good the sunscreen is at preventing sunburn. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning. The numbers can be a little confusing. For example, SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15. Sunscreen with an SPF 15 rating filters out 93percent of UVB, while SPF 30 sunscreen filters out 97percent. Most dermatologists recommend you use an SPF 30 sunscreen or higher.


You need double protection

There is no sunscreen rating for UVA rays. Instead, you must read the label and check for specific ingredients to find an effective product. The key elements are ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. The last two ingredients are the most common and usually the least expensive options. You should always use a sunscreen that blocks both kinds of UV rays.

How it works

The particles in sunscreens provide physical protection against UV rays by blocking or reflecting sunlight. Organic components absorb UV rays and release their energy as heat, providing chemical protection. In older, less sophisticated products, the inorganic particles used to appear as a heavy white paste. Nanotechnology now allows these particles to be much smaller and nearly invisible.


Most people don’t use enough

As a general rule, people apply less the half the amount of sunscreen they should, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The organisation recommends using about 30ml of sunscreen — enough to fill a shot glass — in order to adequately cover your exposed skin. Reapply every two hours or more often if you are swimming or sweating heavily.


It can save your life

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and many of the related deaths could be prevented because melanoma has a high cure rate with early detection and treatment. Many cases could be prevented with proper use of sunscreen so be sure to lather up this festive season and keep your skin, and that of your family, well protected.