Surviving summer

Few things can beat a South African summer, but we must never forget that the sun has a dark side. The good news is that it’s not difficult to make the best of the sun.

A good tan
If you’re thinking there’s no such thing, you’re both right and wrong. A tan is your body’s way of protecting itself from the sun. Sunlight triggers production of melanin pigment in your skin, which creates an umbrella effect over exposed areas to protect individual cells from ultraviolet (UV) rays. With more sun exposure, melanin gets darker and so does your skin. Unfortunately, that colour is not enough to protect your skin from damage.

The dark side
Eighty percent of the signs we see as ‘ageing’ – wrinkles, dry, leathery skin, blotchy pigmentation, loss of elasticity, etc., is actually sun damage. If you need evidence, simply compare the texture and appearance of skin not exposed regularly to direct sunlight – your breasts or insides of your forearms – to your face and chest.

Overexposure to UV rays disrupts the supportive structure of the skin by thinning collagen and causing elastic tissues to contract and clump together, leading to sagging, lines and wrinkles. Irregular clusters of pigment also end up as dark blotches or age spots.

Even those of us with naturally darker skin tones won’t escape potential harm.

Dark skin has a natural sun protection factor (SPF) of eight, but long-term exposure can cause excess pigmentation and ageing of the skin.  At its most serious, sun damage leads to skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in people.

Let there be light
It’s not all doom and gloom. We need the sun to live, and it has many wonderful benefits. The feel of the sun on your skin feels great, because it triggers the release of feel-good endorphin hormones. These help to invigorate body and mind and to relieve stress. Sunlight is also essential for the production of Vitamin D, vital in many of our body’s essential processes.

Bottom line, we just have to know how to get enough sun daily for all the good stuff, and none of the bad: Ten minutes a day of direct exposure on our skin will help our bodies to maintain calcium levels, give us stronger bones and boost our immune systems.

Here’s a tip: you don’t have to expose your arms or face (and contribute to their premature ageing). Give your tummy or legs a bit of airtime.

Your best defence
Avoid the sun in the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm).

External protection Shade and UV-protective hat, sunglasses and clothing are your first line of defence. Sunscreen is your backup.

Internal protection Help your skin help itself with a cocktail of antioxidants, which counteract the UV-triggered free radicals that play havoc with your cells. Boost your skin’s own moisture and collagen production and supply with a collagen supplement. In other words, make a tasty berry-flavoured drink with two sachets of Zehra Age Beautifully every day. It will give you your daily dose of Peptan™ hydrolysed collagen, which is identical to our skin’s own collagen and totally bio-available, so your body can use it most effectively. It is also enriched with antioxidant vitamins C and co-enzyme Q10, plus anthocyanadin-rich Blackberry Extract. All sorted!

Keep an eye on your skin
The skin never forgets, and sun damage is cumulative, so you need to watch your freckles and moles.

Dermatologists call it ‘looking for the ugly duckling’, a freckle or mole that stands out because of its shape, size (larger than a pencil rubber), colour or irregular borders, and those that are itchy or bleed. If so, you must have it checked out ASAP by a dermatologist.

Don’t forget to check between your toes, the soles of your feet and along the borders of your nails for a change in colour or skin texture.