Sun protection with sunscreen: Better too much

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Sun protection with sunscreen: "Better too much than too little"

The sun is coming in summer - albeit much later than expected this year. Especially at lunchtime, the sun's rays burn, hitting walkers and bathers. Without the right sun protection, these endanger exposed parts of the body, such as the upper body, feet or face. In preparation for the coming summer months, an introduction to the correct protection against sunburn is therefore worthwhile.

Sunburn: The consequence of long exposure to the sun If you are exposed to intense sunlight for a long time, you risk sunburn. The dangerous UV-B radiation is primarily responsible. It only makes up a small part of the sun's radiation, but is the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. Until now, research has only blamed DNA genetic damage for skin cancer. So-called RNA molecules also play a crucial role, scientists at the University of California at San Diego clarified last year. They are damaged by extensive sunbathing and influence the development of melanoma (skin cancer).

The trend is going in the wrong direction. "The number of skin cancer cases in Germany has doubled in the last ten years," writes the information provided by German dermatology Every year, 234,000 people contract a skin tumor. White skin cancer, which accounts for around 207,000 diseases, is particularly common. According to experts, this is mainly due to UV-induced skin damage in childhood and adolescence, because its skin is particularly sensitive to the sun's rays. "Sun protection must therefore be as natural for children as brushing their teeth every day," says Gerd Nettekoven, General Manager of the German Cancer Aid.

How much sun protection is needed? "Many people are not aware that they are in the sun as soon as they go out," explains Dirk Meyer-Rogge from the Federal Association of German Dermatologists. If you want to protect yourself from sunburn and skin cancer, you have to take measures in good time. It is important, among other things, to avoid the intense midday sun. Covering clothing also protects against sunburn, especially on the upper body and face. Ultimately, however, permanent protection from sunburn only offers one aid: the popular sunscreen. It should be used according to your own skin type and sun exposure and renewed regularly. Heike Stahlhut from the German Green Cross explains: "30 minutes before going into the sun, you should apply cream." The main principle is: Better too much than too little.

The decisive factor is the personal skin type. According to the research by the American dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection differentiates between six skin types. It is important to note, however, that “the classification of skin types is relatively rough,” so the transitions are fluid. They range from the lightest, the Celtic skin type to the darkest, the black skin type.

People with skin type 1 ("Celtic type") have very light and sensitive skin, get sunburned quickly and generally do not turn brown. They often have light eyes, reddish blonde hair and freckles. People with skin type 2 ("Northern European type") have light eyes, skin and hair. They often get sunburned and tan slowly. Skin type 3 ("mixed type") has medium-light skin, brown hair and light to dark eyes. People of this skin type tan slowly and sometimes get sunburned. People of skin type 4 ("Mediterranean type") rarely get a sunburn, tan quickly and deeply. They usually have brownish skin, dark eyes and brown or black hair. In this country, skin type 5 ("dark skin type") and skin type 6 ("black skin type") are rare. Both are naturally relatively resistant to sunlight.

Sunscreen: The right amount and choice "Adults should take a total of six teaspoons of sunscreen," explains Meyer-Rogge. A single level teaspoon is needed for the face alone, i.e. about five grams. Which protection factor is necessary can be calculated with a simple rule of thumb based on the self-protection time. It indicates how long the skin can do without protection with sunscreen. Summer midday sun in Central Europe serves as an orientation. That means: beach visitors on the Mediterranean have to cut back on vacation because the sun shines stronger there. On the other hand, naturally pre-tanned skin increases the self-protection time. According to the Heidelberg University Hospital, it is between five and ten minutes for skin type 1, between ten and 20 minutes for skin type 2, between 20 and 30 minutes for skin type 3 and between 30 and 40 minutes for skin type 4.

If you multiply the protective factor of the sunscreen by the individual protection time, you can determine how long your skin is protected from the sun. Only the face needs additional attention. A high protection factor is always appropriate here. Important: Those who go into the water in between should apply cream. Special care is also required for children's skin. "The UV-sensitive stem cells in children are much closer to the skin than in adults and are therefore more exposed to UV rays," explains the chairman of the Dermatological Prevention Working Group, Prof. Eckhard Breitbart. If all the protection does not help, sunburn occurs, cool envelopes help. The application of curd cheese or yoghurt, on the other hand, is taboo as this can ignite the skin. Drinking large amounts of water or tea is much more helpful. In extreme cases, sufferers should not hesitate to see a doctor. (lb)

Also read:
UV rays: Absolute protection against sunburn
How do you protect yourself from sunburn?
First aid for sunburn
Skin cancer: Dangerous spring sunshine with bald head
In the first year of life, babies are not exposed to the sun

Image: Rainer Sturm /

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