By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
IT has been a long held belief that the darker your skin, the less protection it needs against the sun’s harmful rays. However, medical experts warn that no-one is immune to the sun’s devastating impact.
As the world observes UV (Ultraviolet) safety month, Walk Good Bahamas, the Bahamian distributing company of the ‘Sun Bum’ sunscreen product is encouraging locals of all shades to protect their skin this summer.
The misconception that dark skinned people should not use sunscreen or a sun block to protect their skin is an issue and a mind-frame dermatologists are trying to change.
Walk Good Bahamas, owned and operated by Laurence and Anna Taylor, is helping to get this message out.
Anna said: “We’re just like you, we love to play in the sun. The bad news is, one in five of us will get skin cancer due to sun exposure. One in five, that’s more than all other cancers combined. The good news is, we can reduce the risk by 80 per cent simply by regularly using approved sun care products.
“The sun does not discriminate, even if your skin is of a darker tone. You can still get skin cancer, sunburn, and other sun or heat related conditions. It is important that darker skin toned people wear sunscreen for protection against the sun.”
Anna said: “Sun Bum Sunscreens are also tested, approved and recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation. The SCF does not approve or lend its seal of approval to products that do not meet their very stringent standards.”
The Sun Bum sunscreen, Anna said, comes in an SPF of 15 to 70.
What is an SPF?
The sun protection factor of a sunscreen is a laboratory measure of the effectiveness of sunscreen — the higher the SPF, the more protection a sunscreen offers against UV-B (the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn).
The SPF is the amount of UV radiation required to cause sunburn on skin with the sunscreen on, as a multiple of the amount required without the sunscreen.
There is a popular oversimplification of how SPF determines how long one can stay in the sun. For example, many users believe that, if they normally get sunburn in one hour, then an SPF 15 sunscreen allows them to stay in the sun fifteen hours (i.e. fifteen times longer) without getting sunburn. This would be true if the intensity of UV radiation were the same for the whole fifteen hours as in the one hour, but this is not normally the case. Intensity of solar radiation varies considerably with time of day. During early morning and late afternoon, the sun’s radiation intensity is highly diminished since it must pass through more of the Earth’s atmosphere while it is near the horizon.
In practice, the protection from a particular sunscreen depends, besides on SPF, on factors such as: The skin type of the user; the amount applied and frequency of re-application; activities in which one engages (for example, swimming leads to a loss of sunscreen from the skin); amount of sunscreen the skin has absorbed.
Anna said: “The American Cancer Society recommends that people use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, while the American Academy of Dermatology opts for 30. The main thing that affects protection level is applying it correctly.”
Tribune Health asked Bahamians about the importance of using a sunscreen. Some were aware of the issues that it helps to prevent such as damaging skin, while others said it had no effect on them.
Tracy, a beach lover, said now that it is summer she will usually visit the beach every day. She said one of her favourite things to pack in her beach bag is a sunscreen or a sun block.
“I’ve always loved the water and taking advantage of our beautiful beach scenes on the island. I think I know a lot of the dangers of sunscreen because of my parents. They actually instilled it in me during my younger days, so I kinda picked that ‘the sun is going damage your skin if you don’t protect it’ kinda thing from them,” said Tracy.
Another interviewee, Michelle, said: “I always heard about the dangers but I’d be lying if I told you I use sunscreen when I go to the beach. I always see people use it, but their skin shade is more lighter than mine so I figured I don’t need it, I figured it is for them and it wouldn’t work for me.”