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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 03:16
Protection factors to consider

Sunlight is composed of a number of types of radiation: ultraviolet (UV), visible, and infrared (IR). UV rays can be divided into three sub-types:

• UVA, which accounts for approximately 95% of all UV rays. Their intensity does not change according to season; that is, unlike UVB rays, they are constant throughout the year. UVA gives the so-called “immediate tan”, and are responsible for allergies and photo-ageing.
• UVB accounts for approximately 5% of UV rays. They stimulate the production of Vitamin D, give a tan, and can cause sunburn and erythema.
• UVC are the most dangerous to human health, but are shielded by the ozone layer in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Repeated and prolonged exposure without proper protection can cause damage to skin. Thus, it is vital to choose the right sun tan lotion that:
• ensures broad spectrum protection (UVA and UVB);
• prevenst rashes and sunburn;
• prevenst photo-ageing and other harmful long-term effects.
When planning to sunbathe you must:
• gradually accustom your skin to the sun upon first exposure;
• thoroughly apply a protective product suiting your photo type (see below);
• repeat application frequently;
• avoid exposure during the hottest hours of the day;
• do not expose children to direct sunlight and anyway never for too long;
• always wear a hat and sunglasses with lenses approved for filtering UVA and UVB rays;
• avoid using products that can be photo-sensitising;
• be careful if you are taking drugs since some can cause reactions in the sun;
• use after-sun products to soothe and moisturise the skin;
• drink frequently to avoid dehydration and prevent heat strokes.
Photo type

A photo type is a set of individual physical characteristics (for example, ethnicity, eye and hair colour, and how easily your skin gets darker). Belonging to a particular photo-type (1 to 6) means having less or more melanin, thus less or more physiological protection against sun rays. There are two types of filters: chemical filters, which absorb and “neutralise” UV rays; and, physical filters, which reflect UV rays (See Table One).
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a coefficient that measures the degree of protection a product offers against UVB rays, thus the ability to delay the onset of erythema. The sun protection factor is determined by an official international method (International Sun Protection Factor Test Method). The SPF is the main indication shown on the label. It can be LOW, MEDIUM, HIGH and VERY HIGH. The European Union recommendation on the efficacy of sunscreen products and related claims is regulated in terms of No.2006/647/EC, 22nd September 2006. (See Table Two).

UVA protection is a factor that indicates the average protection against UVA rays. The European Commission recommendation states that UVA protection must be at least a third of UVB protection to have a product that offers appropriate, broad-spectrum protection.
How to choose the protection that best suits you:
• consider all the variables: subjective (age), environmental (latitude, altitude, season of the year), behavioural (sports practiced, lifestyle habits, etc.);
• match your photo-type with the proper SPF value (the lower the photo-type, the higher should be the SPF);
• in the case of sensitive skin, choose products with higher protection factors;
• choose products free of potentially allergenic and photo-sensitising substances;
• give priority to products containing antioxidants to prevent damage by free radicals, which are a cause of early skin ageing.
In order to support a high level of health protection in the population, it is appropriate to provide proper labelling indications to describe the effectiveness of sun products. No sunscreen product can filter all UV radiation. Consequently, sunscreen products should not claim or create the impression that they provide 100%  protection against UV radiation. Also note that, though sun creams ensure effective protection, high and very high protection products do not hamper skin tanning.
Look out for formulations used in quality products that provide, for example:
1. High tolerability and effective protection because sun filters are retained on the skin;
2. Full, broad-spectrum (UVA-UVB) protection, thanks to the inclusion of photo-stable UVA and UVB filters;
3. A defence against damage by free radicals thanks to the anti-oxidant properties.
To use sunscreen generally:
• Apply generously on your skin before sun exposure and repeat application frequently;
• Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the day;
• If staying in the shade is not possible, protect yourself with appropriate clothing (hat, t-shirt, sunglasses) to ensure better protection;
• Do not expose babies and young children directly to the sun.
Sensitive skin is a condition ever more frequent in the population. Unlike normal skin, it reacts excessively, even without an apparent cause, to psychological, environmental and dietary factors. Sensitive skin can also be the consequence of dermatological disorders such as dermatitis, psoriasis and hyperkeratosis, which lead to skin conditions showing severe dryness, redness and generalised or localised irritation.
Topical sun protection can be effectively supported by systemic photo-protection. Some companies sell a food supplement in tablet form that has a balanced formula with a strong antioxidant action. You can start treatment one to two months before sun exposure and continue during all the sun exposure period, taking one tablet a day after the main meal.
Dietary supplements like this, of course, do not replace a healthy diet. They are merely complementary to it. Your diet should always include fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins and minerals. In summer, include orange-coloured food in your diet (carrots, yellow peppers, melons, peaches, apricots, etc.), rich in beta-carotene, which supports a golden tan. There are also specially formulated sun creams you can use a month or so before going on holiday as a way to prepare the skin for exposure.
Another aspect regarding protection from the sun concerns your hair. It is well-known that extended exposure to sun bleaches the hair. UV rays lead to changes in the chemical composition of hair, which undergoes photo-oxidation. But there is more to it than that. Exposure to environmental agents (sun, sea water, pool water, wind, etc.), mechanical traumas (brushing, use of elastic bands), harsh hairstyling treatments (dyes, bleaching, etc.), heat sources (hair dryers, straighteners, etc.) can damage hair, decrease hair shine and progressively weaken the hair cortex and possibly break it.
There are products to help with this as well that, for example, offer “a specific programme to protect and treat scalp and hair exposed to solar radiation”. There are various products under this category, such as special shampoos and protective hair oils, depending on how serious you want to take it.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:29.2 1st February, 2016
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