Recently I had a skin cancer check. Even though, it’s a quick and simple procedure I had been putting it off for years. I went with some trepidation as I spend a lot of time during summer outside and under the sun.
To my relief the check was fine. It did, however, strengthen my resolve to better protect my skin from the harmful rays of the sun.
West Australia is well known for its beach and outdoor lifestyle. This, of course, means that we spend most our summers outside in the sun.
Unfortunately, the sunny life that we enjoy here also has a serious downside. It’s no surprise to most that Australia has one of the highest rates of melanoma or skin cancer in the world. Sadly, two in three Australians will experience skin cancer before the age of 70 with much of the damage done to the skin in our younger years.
The positive side though, is that there’s plenty of things we can do to protect ourselves from the sun and still make the most of the outdoor lifestyle that WA is so famous for.
The thing I always notice first about WA after an overseas trip is how bright the sun is here. The WA sun seems brighter and glarier than anywhere else in the world. For that, I simply can’t be without a pair of sunglasses – I wear them every single day of the year.
Sunglasses protect the delicate skin around the eyes and can prevent cataracts. The eyelids are one of the most common areas for skin cancer and account for 5-10% of all skin cancer.
Choose sunglasses that conform to Australian Standards. These should absorb more than 95% of the radiation. The Cancer Council WA says that you should look for sunglasses that have an Eye Protection Factor (EPF) of 10 as they provide the best UV protection. You can find the EPF number ranges 1 to 10 and can be found on the tag.
I usually choose polarized lenses and prefer a lighter rather than a darker lens. The darkness of the lens doesn’t impact the UV radiation and I find that a lighter lens means that I’m not constantly taking the sunglasses on and off my head.
In the summer months, it only takes 10 minutes to get sun burn. I’ve learnt this lesson on several occasions and I get away with forgetting to apply sunscreen in almost every part of the world except for WA.
The best thing to do is to make sunscreen a part of your morning routine and keep a tub in every bag and in the car to reapply throughout the day.
The Cancer Council WA recommends using an SPF sunscreen that is higher than 30 plus and choose a Broad Spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
To be effective, apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go out in the sun. I used to apply sunscreen and then hit the water a minute later. This, of course, is completely ineffective as the cream doesn’t have time to bond to the skin and will just wash off.
Also, make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours – or more if you’re in the water or sweating profusely. And don’t forget the lips and behind the ears!
Another tip from the Cancer Council is to use clothing rather than sunscreen to cover most of your skin. This will also save money on buying tubs and tubs of sunscreen. The other advantage of using clothing is that you know exactly where your skin is protected – rather than hoping that that hard to reach part of your back is actually covered in sunscreen.
To be sun protective, the fabric should be a close weave, think cotton, linen, polyester. If you’re not sure, hold the fabric up against the light. If the light shines through it won’t give sun protection. Many popular brands including many surf and swimwear brands offer UV protection fabrics and are an excellent choice.
For optimum coverage go for a broad-rimmed hat rather than a cap, which won’t protect your neck or the side of your face.
West Australia and the beach are practically synonymous and there’s simply no better way to spend summer than at one of the many magnificent beaches on our coastline.
Bikinis and boardies will always be the perfect attire for a day at the beach but if you’re spending a lot of time on the water consider slightly more coverage.
In the past few years, wetsuits and rashies have become a lot more stylish, which is a very welcome addition to my water sports wardrobe. Many of the surf brands have some excellent choices for cooler and warmer conditions. Rash vests won’t keep you warm, but they’re great for protecting against the sun.
My new favourite item is the aqua leggings which you can wear to workout but also for water sports as they dry very quickly.
Thanks to Roel Loopers for the photos.