Blocking the Sun

Ultraviolet rays in sun light can cause serious and often irreversible harm to the body. This can range from eye damage to the more extreme, skin cancer. Prevention must start from early age. For the skin, sun blocks or sunscreens have been proven effective. Bali is located just 8 degrees from the equator, so below are some helpful hints on blocking the sun.

SPF
The sun protection factor (SPF) or filtering power of a sunscreen product determines what percentage of the ultraviolet rays get through to the skin. An SPF of 15 allows only 1/15 (7%) of the sun’s rays to get through and thereby extends safe sun exposure from 20 minutes to 5 hours without the skin burning. A SPF higher than 15 protects against sunburn for more than 5 hours.

Tips:
• When going to the beach use a sun block with a SPF 25 or higher.
• For every day use, apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
• Children generally should avoid direct sunlight, use protective clothing such as a hat, long sleeved shirt, sunglasses etc. If needed, apply a creamy non-fragrant sun block with SPF 25-30.
• Babies under 6 months must avoid direct sunlight.

Type
There are several kinds of sunscreen available. Lotion and cream are the favorites, and give good protection. Oil is easy to apply because it spreads more easily, but it only provides a thin layer of protection and needs more frequent application and in addition, it causes a greasy sensation on the skin. Gel is also easy to apply but it also tends to wash or sweat off more easily and there’s usually a stinging sensation caused by the alcohol content contained in it. Sun block sticks are good, but problematic to apply on larger areas. Nowadays the dry spray on lotion is also popular and provides good protection. However, sprays aren’t recommended. It’s wasteful and most of the effective content is lost to the air and it usually forms an uneven layer on the skin.

Tips:
• Use the type of sunscreen of your preference. Make sure you read the recommendation when to reapply the sunscreen (usually every 3 or 4 hours).
• Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure to the sun to give it time to penetrate the skin.
• Give special attention to the areas most likely to become sunburned, such as your nose, ears, cheeks and shoulders.

Waterproof
Sunscreens will wash away with sweat and water, especially after swimming. Some sunscreens proclaim to be waterproof or water resistant. Research shows that the “water resistant” sunscreen can maintain their SPF after 40 minutes of water immersion, and the “waterproof” after 80 minutes. Saltwater reduces the SPF faster than freshwater. This brings out a new production of “surf shop sunscreens” that proclaims to maintain effective SPF for seawater activities, however, there are no significant studies to show that these are more resistant.

Tips:
• Apply the sunscreen at least twice more frequently than recommended (about every 2 hours) for water activities, especially for sea water activities.
• Re-apply immediately after swimming or profuse sweating.

Sunscreen and Others
Besides sunscreen, you might consider to use insect repellent when you visit Bali. In some areas, mosquitoes can be quite a problem. Concomitant use of sunscreen with DEET, the active component in most insect repellents, lowers the effective SPF by 34%!

Tips:
• Use a sunscreen with SPF 30+.
• Some sunscreens are safe to apply on the face and lips, just make sure the type of sunscreen applied is appropriate for these areas.

More
• Use a sunscreen every day even when it’s a cloudy day.
• Wear UV close-fitting protecting sunglasses to protect against eye damage. (read our article about sunglasses)
• Wear sun protective clothing. Dark, tightly woven clothes are best.
• Use shade and limit your exposure to the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, when radiation is at its strongest.
• Don’t forget to keep hydrated, drink a lot of water.
• Wear a hat that protects your face, neck and ears.

Source:
• MdConsult
• National Safety Council: Sun Safety Program
• Auerbach: Wilderness Medicine 4th ed., Mosby, 2001

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