Rejoice! The warmth has well and truly arrived, and (unless you live on the east coast where La Nina is keeping things a little cooler and wetter than you might hope) you are probably awaiting those warm days spent by the pool, and the long nights spent outside with friends. At Aussie Pharmacy, we are fans of summer, and we want to give you the low down on everything you need to know as we approach this best time of year.
Sadly, this ‘best time of year’ can also have deadly consequences. Here are some sobering statistics of Australia’s long relationship with melanoma.
- 18,000: How many males will be diagnosed with new cases of melanoma in 2022
- 10,000: How many females will be diagnosed with new cases in 2022
- 1,300: The number of estimated deaths as a result of skin cancer this year.
- 1 in 17: The chances of developing skin cancer at one point in your life.
Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in Australia And tragically, it does not need to be anywhere near this high.
How Sunburn Works.
The sun gives off light in the form of ultraviolet rays. This contains low levels of radiation that can damage the upper levels of your skin. There are three kinds that make the pilgrimage from the sun to earth; UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is largely absorbed the earth’s atmosphere, while the other two reach ground level and begin charring away at your skin. UVB hits your top layer of skin (the epidermis) which causes sunburn. Here’s what technically happens: The cell picks up on some DNA damage, so they put out the call for the immune system to show up and lend a hand. The blood vessels in your skin leak into the gaps between cells, bringing heat and extra fluid. This is why your skin gets all red and sensitive after a long day exposed to the elements.
One of the difficult things is that it isn’t always obvious in the immediate that you are getting burnt. Burning happens the moment you sit unprotected in the sun, but the process of the body trying to heal itself happens about an hour after you come in from the sun. You only feel it later. It can take 24-48 hours to fade, and if you’re on a week long holiday, you’ve wasted almost half of it in agony. This might surprise you, but there are a number of remedies you can try, and products available from a discount pharmacy that might speed the process along.
- Take a pain reliever like Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. A sunburn is a swelling like many other injuries, though we tend not to categorise them as such in our heads.
- Cool the skin. Part of the pain comes from the feeling of heat on the epidermis.
- Apply a moisturiser or gel. Keeping the skin as moist as possible can delay or even prevent the peeling. Aloe Vera cream is always a popular choice from a discount chemist. Pick some up now, and save future you a real headache.
- Drink more water than usual. You are probably dehydrated after spending that much time outside.
- Leave the kitchy or sensitive skin alone.
The issue with these remedies is that the horse has already bolted. You might be able to grit your teeth and bear the pain, but there are deeper problems. The third kind of radiation, UVA, goes deeper and begins damaging your skin’s proteins, membrane and DNA. This will eventually stop the DNA from reproducing, and eventually the cell begins to self destruct. This mutation could eventually form into melanoma. No amount of aloe vera cream will help you escape this fact. Instead, you need to work on prevention. Here are the best things you can get from a discount pharmacy this summer.
#1 - Sunscreen
This is number one for a reason. The chemicals in sunscreen form a literal screen or a protective film that absorbs the UV radiation before it penetrates the skin. You will probably know that you can get different SPF levels, but you might not know exactly what is going on. SPF stands for sun protection factor, and it tells you how long the sun’s rays would take to break down the chemical layer and start burning your skin. For example, if you used SPF 50, it would take you approximately 50 times longer to begin burning than if you didn’t have anything at all. Many dermatologists and GPs recommend applying sunscreen as part of your morning routine to normalise it. After all, you can get burnt waiting for a bus, or having a 30 minute snooze in the park over your lunch break. You should be on the lookout for sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, has a broad spectrum that protects against both UVA and UVB, and is water resistant.
#2 - Physical Blockers
These are things like zinc or titanium dioxide which physically cover your skin against UV rays. Zinc is probably the more well known example. Consider the way you lather it across your skin, and it is so thick you might as well be wearing a mask. This actually works in the same way. The finely ground minerals reflect the radiation like a shield or mirror. Many sunscreens will use a combination of the two, so it is worth doing your research before you make a choice.
#3 - Sensible Clothing
You save yourself a world of trouble and hurt if you wear sunglasses, long sleeved shirts and pants when out in the sun. It removes all the variables of sunscreen: did you apply it properly? Has it washed off? Has it been long enough that you need to re-apply? None of these really apply to sun smart clothing. And if you’re worried about style, consider two things: It is 2022, there are all kinds of cuts from all kinds of brands. And secondly, you might not love the look, but you will probably like it more than a large scar where a melanoma was removed.