A Burning Issue?
Using sun tan lotion
to SAVE your skin!

The most appropriate 'factor' sun tan lotion or cream for you depends on how quickly you burn...or how sun-sensitive you know your skin to be. So if you know you begin to burn after, say, 10 minutes (quite likely for medium to fair skinned folks from cooler climes when exposed to a blazing, tropical sun!) a so-called 'factor 2' sun tan lotion, oil or cream or should allow you to stay in the sun for 2x10 = 20 minutes before beginning to burn...hence factor 6 will protect you for 60 minutes, and by the same token a factor 15 cream for 150 mins (and so on!).

However it is paramount that the cream you choose protects against over exposure to both UVA and UVB radiation. Sun tan lotion packaging 'should be' informative, and many (if not all) include grading systems for UVB (the main cause of burning)...but now scientists reckon UVA may be as bad or worse than UVB for causing skin damage, ageing effects and increasing the possibility of developing 'epidermal carcinomas' (skin cancer!) and NOT ALL creams are as effective at screening against UVA... so check the label promises good/high protection against both.

Follow these tips for a healthier tan...

As a general tip it is now pretty much generally accepted that any sun tan lotion or creams rated under factor 15 are almost as good as useless. It is never a good idea to 'burn for a couple of days' then start using cream...it is TOO LATE the damage is done... It is also never a good idea (as I have seen people do numerous times) to 'cream up' all holiday then for fear of 'not looking tanned enough' to impress the office/your friends on your return, going for 'a final burn' without cream for the last day or so... again the potential damage is done... and your 'tan' (mostly just redness from burning!) will also dry out and peel/slough off much quicker when you get home.

A gradual, steady tan, whilst well protected with effectively formulated sun tan lotions will last longer and your skin will not dry out as much either. The aging effects of sun-burn and all the other epidermal damage including increased disposition to develop skin cancers will also be reduced by regular, thorough application (every 30 mins or so...and always after washing or swimming) of quality, anti UVA and UVB cream. (Remember though that repeated applications do NOT redouble the effects of the creams... so, reapplying low factors will have no effect after the 'sun time' allowance as calculated above has been reached).

Although for those who hail from climates where some parts of their bodies are seldom exposed, there are 'obvious' regions which are likely to catch the sun most readily – such as shoulders, upper chest, backs of legs and even feet – the sites for skin cancer lesions to form are frequently on the face and hands... the bits that get longest exposure to sunlight. So complete and thorough application of cream should include all parts of the body that are likely to be exposed not just the 'sensitive bits'!!

The CRITICAL factor...

Also, a commonplace mistake for many people is to walk out and about in the sun with summer clothes on, with exposed arms and legs, and as they are not 'deliberately' sunbathing, they neglect the application of sun tan lotion... to their discomfort and cost later in the day!

It is a good idea to use factor 30 or higher – (especially for the kids) for at least the first few days DO NOT WORRY if you see no signs of tanning (redness or 'burning')! This is what is supposed to happen. You could down grade to factor 20 or 15 for the rest of the holiday (BUT NOT LESS than 15)...and make sure the bottle says the cream protects equally well against BOTH types of 'rays', as described above.

Remember that even when it's cloudy the sun is still powerful (especially in countries closer to the equator) and can burn, and if there is a breeze blowing it is even easier to underestimate the burning power of the sun in tropical climes! So, to be better safe than sorry always make the application of sun tan lotion or cream – like the application of any 'moisturiser' but more of a potential lifesaver – a routine part of every day's 'personal preparation' before leaving your hotel room, villa... or 'tent'?, whilst on your vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Children need a healthy respect for the sun!

You should also ALWAYS be sure to apply sun tan lotion to children, choosing sun creams that have high factors of 30+ (you might prefer to use the types of creams made specially for children that contain milder 'chemical' cocktails)... Damage done to children's skin due to parents' ignorance, or negligence, cannot be undone and has no doubt been a major causative factor in MANY people developing skin cancers earlier in life. Don't let your child become one of these statistics!

It is also important to impress upon kids the 'deadly seriousness' of the real need to protect themselves in the sun. This is an essential piece of education for which parents should be suitably responsible. Dad being 'macho' and going without any sun tan lotion, or getting beetroot red first day of a holiday because he forgot to rub on cream due to 'manliness' or too many 'beers'... is not a 'good example' of sun safety to set. Nor is Mum frying herself in 'olive oil' (because she'll "never get a proper tan otherwise")... And neither of these common occurrences are funny a few years later when he or she is lying emaciated and suffering in a hospice at 50 odd years of age – after their skin cancer has spread to other organs!

In our opinion there are also other issues to consider when selecting a good suncream -- especially for children (but also for yourself). MOST commercial sun tanning creams and lotions are a cocktail of unpronounceable chemical components. Whilst some chemicals might well block the sun from damaging the cells -- the trade-off is that you are saturating your skin with those very chemicals that now proving to be questionable at best and possibly potentially more toxic than sunlight might ever prove at worst! Some common components of sun creams have been shown to enhance sun sensitivity, and even cause other forms of damage to the skin!...

What does this all mean? For us it is that you should consider the investment in a good quality all natural sun cream for family use. It may not be cheap -- but after all what is your long-term health and that of your children worth? Only your conscience will help you decide: Here is is BEST BUY 100% natural suncream recommendation that is guaranteed to benefit your skin and protect from the ravages of sun-burn as it contains natural minerals to reflect the sun: Reflect Balm

Sun hats and t-shirts are also an essential for kids during ANY exposure to sun... BUT remember that intense sun rays can still burn skin through lightweight materials... so light clothes should not be seen as a replacement for creams... but as an auxiliary and additional protection to properly and frequently applied high factor sun tan cream or lotion.

...and don't forget your 'brolley'!

It is also a really good idea to purchase a decent sun umbrella or at least to set up a shady area that all the family can share to ensure that further respite from the damaging effects of the sun can be sought, after spending enough time 'roasting' on a beach visit!

Sorry about the 'soap-box' sound of this article... but you can check out the current temperature of the DR resorts (or anywhere else you might be thinking of going, that will include exposure to the sun – at the beach, by the pool, or just walking about) here: Check today's weather in the Dominican Republic and you will see why it is necessary to stock up with a good quantity of effective, quality sun tan lotion and creams and use them fastidiously

SPECIAL NOTE: Remember particularly you MUST first apply sun tan lotion or cream at least 15 minutes before any sun exposure... or they WILL NOT BE as effective... DON'T wait until you get to the beach...and, once again, don't let exposed body parts burn unprotected by cream whilst wandering about in towns in 'summer clothes'!)

This is a passionate topic for us... because we want people to be safe in every way when they visit the DR...and when you have seen someone die due to skin cancer (as I have!) it also helps bring the need to spread the word to take sensible precautions when sunbathing... or just walking around in the sun... sharply into focus!

So take care... and have a sun-safe holiday!


(This article was contributed by Al Smith, who also coordinates the content of Visiting the DR's own web log)

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