We have become so used to being outside and enjoying our sunshine, but the African sun can be ruthless. That’s why you need sunscreen for protection, because you can burn whether your skin is light or dark. And the higher the SPF, the better the protection for your skin.
Some however are not that convinced. Like Gregory Itebogeng (29) from Durban who says that hats and shaded spaces are all he needs to be protected from the sun’s rays.
“I have been skateboarding shirtless in the hot sun for years. What even does SPF stand for? How do I know which one will protect my skin. SPF 30, 15 or 50? Nah bru …” he says.
“I just don’t think sunscreen or SPF is one of those things I need, I never leave my home without a hemp hat. If the threat is skin cancer, I would rather prevent the disease with the kinds of food that I put into my body.”
Lesedi Maketaketa (29), also from Durban, echoes his sentiments. “I wear hats. I am responsible in terms of how much sun I get. If I need shade, I get to a shaded spot.”
Why sunscreen is essential
You need sunscreen, cautions Centurion dermatologist Dr Temi Awotedu. “The sun’s damaging rays do not discriminate,” she says.
Cape Town dermatologist Dr Nomphelo Gantsho says that it is common for some to believe that melanin gives you immunity from the sun’s most unforgiving effects. Melanin is a naturally occurring pigment in the body which is responsible for the colour of your skin, she adds.
Gantsho provides comprehensive dermatological care for all ages as well as aesthetic procedures.
The more melanin, the darker your skin, she adds.
“It may be difficult to detect serious cases of sunburn on people with darker skin tones, which could lead to serious health complications such as heat stroke,” says Awotedu.
“Although dark-skinned people won’t get sunburned as quickly, they will still burn and are still susceptible to sun-induced damage, such as sunspots and wrinkles, and cancer.”
But what is the tea on SPF?
SPF stands for sun protection factor. This is measured by the level of UVB* protection a sunscreen will give you, explains Gantsho.
“SPF is a measure of the time it would take for a person to start getting red if he or she apply the sunscreen as directed compared to the amount of time without sunscreen,” she says. “If you burn after 10 minutes of sun exposure, an SPF of 15 will allow you to be in the sun for up to 150 minutes without burning.”
While it is no secret that sunscreen isn’t easily accessible to the everyday South African, there are natural remedies that can protect you from the sun.
Aloe vera: Aloe vera is often used as a treatment for sunburn. According to Healthline, aloe is a great medicinal plant that has been used for thousands of years to treat skin conditions, such as wounds and burns.
Aloe vera is so effective at soothing burns that it’s sometimes referred to as the “burn plant.”
Cheaper alternatives: There are more affordable sunscreen options which includes sunblock sticks, wipes and even mists.
*Always opt for sunscreen. You should always consult with your physician or other health care professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, beginning any diet, nutrition or fitness plan or adopting any treatment for a health problem, whether offered on the site or otherwise.