Unprotected skin can start burning in under 20 minutes. The nose, ears, lips and shoulders are usually very exposed.
Unprotected skin can start burning in under 20 minutes. The nose, ears, lips and shoulders are usually very exposed.

Summer and the skin is unhappy

By Dr Darren Green Time of article published Nov 15, 2013

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QUESTION: I am afraid of more scars due to the sun. We will be on holiday soon and my skin will often be exposed to direct sunlight.

Apart from being asthmatic, I am prone to skin allergies which sometimes result in patchy marks. They left bad marks on my legs last summer, despite me having applied 60+ sunscreen every day.

What else can I do? I love swimming in summer and know I am going to suffer from this again.


ANSWER: Allergies and eczema are far more common during this season. Skin manifestations of allergies range from simple “wheal and flare” hives to dry red patches that are susceptible to secondary infections due to scratching.

Eczema can be dry or weeping (wet), and can be truly debilitating and cosmetically challenging.

The danger of sun exposure to these areas is that the UV rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin due to the barrier having been broken. This causes pigmentation, with dark spots emerging in the healing process.

This occurs in a bid to protect the deeper exposed layers, and therefore it is crucial to avoid excessive sun exposure if you suffer from these inflammatory conditions.

Practical tips include sufficient clothing cover on hot days and regular and abundant sunblock with SPF 50+.

This should be applied hourly when in the sun, and if there are deeper lesions, sun exposure is not advised. A simple round hat can make a significant difference in protecting the forehead, neck and lips.

One factor that is often overlooked is the use of Retin A in many facial products. Direct sunlight can alter the underlying mechanisms of it working and lead to breakouts.


Tips to get those dry lips licked

Why the dry?

Dry scaly lips are usually caused by a combination of factors. Environmental issues include heat and wind, exposure and UV protection. Nutritional deficiencies such as zinc, vitamin C and even iron can lead to chapped lips. The lower lip is often worse and strongly suggests sun exposure.

* Look for a lip balm with lanolin, vitamin E and SPF of 30 or higher. Apply often and generously (hourly is a good guide and also for a full week).

* Don’t lick the lips too often.

* Remember that wind can dry the lips just as much as sun.

* Salty sea water further dries out lips.

* If response is insufficient, do not hesitate to see a dermatologist, sooner rather than later, for a possible biopsy.

Home remedies for lip problems

* Petroleum jelly, aloe vera, lip balm and yoghurt.

* Vitamin E (aloe vera), aloe juice and grapefruit seed extract.

* Others: ice, honey, teabags and baking soda.


Summer’s here – and the living is not always easy

Summer has arrived in all its bright and bold splendour with loads of fun and festivity to follow.

If only it were all festive, with sunburn, dry chapped lips, dehydration, sunstroke and even kidney stones on the rise during this season. The mainstay of wellness is prevention, and you deserve to be well informed on a few issues.

Sunscreen versus sunblock?

Sunscreen absorbs the UV rays and sunblock deflects them.

Unprotected skin can start burning in under 20 minutes. The nose, ears, lips and shoulders are usually very exposed.

The lips have a very thin layer of skin and are particularly vulnerable to sunburn due to having little melanin, the pigment that helps protect against the sun.

Too much sun can cause early ageing and the deep layers of your skin can undergo some significant structural changes, predisposing you to cancer. Cold-sore breakouts are easily triggered by too much sun, and effective protection balm is essential. The strength of the sunscreen, measured in SPF numbers, tells you how much protection you are getting.


What does SPF mean?

SPF is the abbreviation for sun protection factor – it tells us how long the skin barrier will protect the skin before it begins to burn.

An SPF 30 means it will take your lips 30 times longer to burn than they would without the sunscreen.

Dermatologists suggest you apply lip protector and other sunscreens 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it during the day.

The frequency depends on the type of activity in which you are engaging. - Cape Argus


* Dr Darren Green, a trusted figure in the field of media medicine, is a University of Stellenbosch graduate who adds innovative spark to health and wellness issues.

He features on 567CapeTalk, and is a regular guest on SABC3 and the Expresso show. Dr Green works as an emergency medical practitioner at a leading Cape Town hospital and completed four years of training as a registrar in the specialisation of neurology.

If you’ve got medical problems, contact the doctor at [email protected], 021 930 0655 or Twitter @drdarrengreen. Catch him in Cape Town on 567 CapeTalk, most Fridays at 1.30pm

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