March is a great time to check your skin for any signs of sun damage. Skin cancers claim more lives than traffic crashes and are caused by UV radiation damaging the skin. We are reminded to slip, slop, slap and wrap when the UV index hits 3 – to put that in perspective, a mild day in Hawke’s Bay can see a reading of 10!
It is vital to slop on a broad-spectrum SPF30+ sunscreen evenly to all areas of the body, 20 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply every two hours and after being in water or sweating. There are many brands available and we are pleased to be stocking the UV guard sunscreens in store and online, which was one of the best performers in the latest NZ Consumer study.
Will I still produce enough vitamin D if I use sun protection?
Vitamin D is made in the body when we are exposed to sunlight and it is vital for maintaining healthy bones, muscles and teeth. The amount of sunlight needed to make vitamin D depends on UV radiation levels, skin type and lifestyle. When the UV index falls below 3, some sun exposure, especially in the hours around noon is recommended, such as a daily walk or other outdoor activity. The rest of the year, most people will get adequate vitamin D through normal activities even when practicing good sun protection techniques.
Best to check
We are more prone to skin cancers as we age or if we have fair skin, a family history or a large number of moles, among other factors. If you are over 50 years, each month systematically check every part of your body, including the scalp and soles of the feet. See your doctor if you notice:
- New or changing spots
- A growing spot that is rough, dry or scaly
- A spot that has become thickened or raised
- A spot or sore that bleeds easily, is crusted over or doesn’t heal
The first sign of a melanoma is often an unusual looking mole or freckle that may be itchy, painful or tender. Pop into Ahuriri Pharmacy to pick up a pocket guide to checking yourself. If you have a spot you are concerned about, look for:
Asymmetry, where one half of the spot is different to the other
Irregular Borders, where the edges are notched, uneven or blurred
Colour is uneven
Diameter greater than 6mm
Evolution, that is, any changes in growth, new or raised
See your doctor immediately if you notice any of these changes.
Once you’ve excluded melanomas, your skin may still be showing signs of sun damage. When UV radiation damages the cells it also suppresses the skin’s immune defences. Recent research has found that vitamin B3 protects these defences and allows efficient repair of the cells. Using a vitamin B3 tablet or cream can reverse and minimise the appearance of sun damage. We’re hearing great results from the new Solarcare cream. Carol told us,
"Already I am finding the Solarcare cream beneficial. I understand that to repair sun damaged skin is a slow process, but I haven’t found anything that is as good as Solarcare."
Stay safe x