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Sunscreens Spacer    
Sunscreen

Sunscreens work by either reflecting ultraviolet light or providing a chemical barrier to absorb ultraviolet light. Many sunscreen products combine a mixture of ingredients to provide a high degree of ultraviolet protection and block or absorb a broad-spectrum of ultraviolet light. Some sunscreens also are stabilised to allow more prolonged protection. A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number of 30+ provides a high degree of ultraviolet light protection.

Sunscreens should be selected on the basis of being “broad spectrum” to protect against the harmful UVA and UVB rays. They should be applied to all areas of exposed skin 10-20 minutes before going outdoors and be reapplied according to manufacturers recommendations, or sooner if you are swimming or sweating heavily. Some people find that the “gel”-based sunscreens are more pleasant to use on hairy skin, including the balding scalp. But whether you choose a cream, lotion, gel, spray or milk largely depends on personal preferences.

Research has not shown any long term adverse effects from using sunscreens in humans. The Australasian College of Dermatologists recommend the use of sunscreens on areas of the body not covered with clothing to reduce the risks of excessive sunlight exposure.

 

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Vitamin D Spacer    
Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important vitamin that is required not only for the maintenance of healthy bones but is also believed to play a role in the prevention of various internal cancers and some diseases related to the immune system.

Vitamin D is unique in that it is naturally produced by the human skin in response to sunlight. Although most people can maintain adequate levels of the vitamin from day to day sun exposure, many people in Australia are deficient either due belonging to a group that is at high risk such as the elderly and those with dark skin. Increasingly, fair skinned people who are simply vigilant with sun protective measures are also found to be deficient. In many people casual everyday sun exposure is inadequate to maintain their vitamin D levels.

Adequate vitamin D is unlikely to be achieved through dietary means alone for most Australians. To maintain adequate vitamin D levels it is recommended that the hands, face and arms be exposed to 5-15 minutes of sunlight 5 times a week. A greater frequency is required for those who are older or have darker skin. Alternatively, particularly for patients who are vigilant with sun protection, a vitamin D supplement of at least 400 IU (10 μg) per day can be taken (those who are found to be deficient in vitamin D on testing require higher doses).  There are many commercially available supplements that contain vitamin D, several of which also contain calcium.

 
 
 

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Photodamage (Sun Damage) Spacer    
PhotoDamage

Historically, pale skin was associated with beauty and opulence whereas tanned skin was frowned upon as being associated with the working classes. Over recent years however, people have erroneously begun to associate having a tan with health, vigour and attractiveness and have viewed sunlight as beneficial to both emotional and physical health.

Whilst sun exposure is important for generating vitamin D it does have drawbacks. Sunlight is responsible for wrinkling, blotching, drying, and leathering of skin. Furthermore, almost all skin cancers result from long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It is important to be aware of the effects of ultraviolet radiation to be able to balance its benefits with its negative effects.

A tan indicates that the skin has undergone damage from the sun and is will be at risk of premature aging and skin cancer development. Tanning is our body's protective mechanism against harmful ultraviolet rays but does not afford significant protection from further sun damage. Sunburn indicates intense short term overexposure of those damaging rays. Blistering sunburns, especially in childhood is linked to increased risk of melanomas.  In fact, 50% to 80% of the sun's damaging effects occur before we reach 18 years of age.

 

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation causes both short-term damage such as tanning, burning, peeling and long-term damage including the deterioration of skin quality and development of skin cancers. Both low dose day-to-day sunlight as well as repeated episodes of short-term damage contribute to longer term damage. Some of the physical changes that suggest the skin is sun damaged include extensive freckling, loss of elasticity (sagging); wrinkling; small broken blood vessels; dry, scaly patches mainly on the face and hands and eventually skin cancer development.

Protecting the skin minimises the risk of both cosmetic deterioration as well as the likelihood of developing skin cancers. Importantly, it is never too late to protect yourself from excessive sunlight as the damage to your skin is ongoing throughout life. With some simple common sense you will still be able to enjoy a healthy outdoors lifestyle:

Wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses. Avoid direct exposure to the sun during the peak UV hours of 11am-3pm.  Seek shade when outdoors in strong sunlight. The use of sunscreens should be seen as an add-on to natural protection for the indirect UV rays that are reflected off surfaces, especially when on water or in the snow.  Sunscreens should be selected on the basis of being “broad spectrum” to protect against the harmful UVA and UVB rays. They should be applied to all areas of exposed skin 10-20 minutes before going outdoors and be reapplied according to manufacturers recommendations, or sooner if you are swimming or sweating heavily. Some people find that the “gel”-based sunscreens are more pleasant to use on hairy skin, including the balding scalp.

 
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Skin Self Examination Spacer  
Skin Self Examination

It may be a surprise to learn that the majority of skin cancers are identified by patients or their family/friends before they even see a dermatologist. It is therefore important to keep a close eye on your own skin. It is recommended to spend 5 minutes 3-4 times a year examining your skin closely for new or changing spots.
Don’t forget to get someone to check your back or if this is not possible, then use 2 mirrors so that you can have a good look at this often neglected area. If you have photos of your skin, use them to compare against during the skin self examination process. Mapping photos are available for a minimal cost and are best kept and used at home but also brought to you doctor’s appointments. Ask your doctor if you think mapping photos would be helpful for you.

 
 

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