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Keeping safe in the sun

Published Oct 26, 2001

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Try this experiment. Park your car in the hot sun, leave it for an hour, then fry an egg on the bonnet. Now think what that is doing to your skin.

If you abuse your skin when you're young, it will resemble that of a lizard when you're older.

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And remember, sunburn affects everyone. Dark-skinned, black people also get burnt. Regardless of skin colour, babies and children have very sensitive skin and should always wear sunblock - if allowed in the sun at all.

  • If the sun is shining and you're outside, wear a hat. Hats are fun, funky, trendy and essential. Get into the habit of wearing one.

  • If hiking seriously, a hat with a brim is essential. If the sun is hot, try to get a hat with a brim at the back so that the nape of your neck is covered. Don't underestimate the strength of the sun. It's a killer.

  • Get a good sunscreen with a minimum protection factor of 15. Putting on sunscreen should be like brushing your teeth - you do it every day before you face the world. Necks, hands and toes (if you wear sandals) also need protection. The back of your neck is an often-missed area.

  • If you think all this sunscreen talk is neurotic, speak to any dermatologist in this country and you'll be told exactly what happens to you when you develop skin cancer. Rodent ulcers (a common skin cancer) are what their name implies: like rats, they eat away your skin.

  • Sunscreen is unisex, meaning both men and women should wear it. Guys are often slack about putting on sunscreen (or any cream). Skin cancer is not fussy about which sex it attacks.

  • Wear protective clothing. Shoestring and tank tops might look good (on the right bodies) but they expose an awful lot of skin.

  • Drink lots of water so that you don't become dehydrated. If travelling any distance, take along a few small bottles of water.

  • If you're vacationing and you impulsively decide to do something active (such as climbing Table Mountain), don't think of setting off without a hat and water.

  • If you're visiting any country where there is sunshine, or even where there is no sun but plenty of haze, sunscreen is essential. Even when skiing you should use sunscreen. If you're travelling in Third World countries, you may be unable to find sunscreen, so always take along your own supply.

  • Wear sunglasses. Sun rays are damaging to the eyes. It's worth investing in a good pair of sunglasses with a UV filter and which are polarised.

  • If you're tanning parts of yourself that have always been covered, do it with restraint. There are pitiful tales of couples alone in deserted coves, who, delighting in their solitude, tan naked and then are unable to get near each other due to their outstanding parts being severely sunburnt. There is nothing more painful than viciously sunburnt breasts or scorched privates.

  • Wear clothes which protect you from the sun, such as light, long-sleeved shirts and light trousers.

  • Light colours are best in hot weather as they reflect sunlight. Black absorbs sun. For some reason, tsetse flies, mosquitoes and other insects love dark colours, so that's also something to remember. White or beige are great travelling colours and somehow, they don't ever look as dirty as they probably are.

  • In hot weather, cotton underwear is a must. Synthetic underpants or broekies can give you all kinds of problems as your crotch is one of the sweatiest parts of your body. If perspiration is not allowed to dry, it gets sticky and bacteria can form. Besides, you'll smell better in cotton.

  • Men's swimming costumes (shorts or bermudas) should have cotton linings. If not and the outer material is synthetic, and you decide to go for long walks on the beach, you can land up with a horrible rash.

  • If you're wearing takkies or sneakers, take along a few pairs of cotton socks. They're a protection against insect bites and also help stop your sneakers from getting too smelly.

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