Summer means being outdoors and unless you’re hitting the gym, whatever exercise you do will expose your skin to the sun. While there’s nothing better than hiking, running or cycling on a clear and sunny day, if you’re not properly protected it could possibly be the worst thing you could for your skin.

South Africa has the second highest rate of skin cancer in the world after Australia and according to dermatologist Dr. Kesiree Naidoo of Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, one of the best ways to protect your skin is by wearing clothing or completely staying out of the sun. Dr. Naidoo shares valuable insight about the helpful and harmful effects of the sun and also how to safely keep active throughout summer.  

Essential Vitamin D

Sun is essential for the formation of Vitamin D, however we can also get this from eating oily fish, dairy and eggs as well as Vitamin D supplements. The amount of sun needed to produce Vitamin D varies depending on the time of year and exposure to UVB. You need only five to thirty minutes of sun exposure approximately twice a week to produce enough Vitamin D.

Wear UV protective clothing

While clothing is probably the best way to protect your skin, not all clothing protects equally. The tightness of the weave, the weight, type of fibre, colour and amount of skin covered all affect the amount of protection they provide. Fabrics are made of tiny fibres woven or knitted together. Under a microscope, one can see lots of spaces between the fibres; UV can pass directly through these holes to reach the skin. While exercising opt for tight knit fibres or wearing sports brands that carry a built in UV protection like , SKINS active wear sold by Commander HQ and always double up on sunscreen for the exposed parts of your body.


Always choose a reputable sunscreen which has been tested by an accredited organisation with a SPF of 30 – 50 and a UVA and UVB protection. Many sunscreens do not block UVA radiation, which does not primarily cause sunburn, but increases the rate of melanoma. Diligent use of sunscreen can also slow or temporarily prevent the development of wrinkles and sagging skin. It’s important you understand what SPF means. For example if you use SPF 15, it means that if it takes you ten minutes to burn in the sun using this factor of SPF will give you 15 times more protection. You therefore have 150 minutes until you burn. However you do need to apply a good amount of sunblock. Sunscreen also comes off with swimming and sweating so you really need to reapply ever 2 to 4 hours. SPF is only a measure of protection from UVB and does not tell you anything about the UVA protection of a sunblock.

Examine your skin 

Always be aware of what spots you have on your skin. It will be easier then to spot any new ones that appear overnight.  Look out for pigmented nodules or patches, pearly nodules, pink scaling patches, non-healing ulcers, and crusted and bleeding lesions. Nodules that are persistent and growing in size is an obvious tell-tale sign.

Know your cancers and its causes

Basal cell cancer (BCC), squamous cell cancer and melanoma make up some of the most common types of cancers in men and women. Melanoma is the worst type of skin cancer and can rapidly metastasise while basal cell cancer is more common especially in men than in women, it is the least dangerous. BCC can however be locally invasive and invade surrounding tissue and bone. Excessive sun exposure, sunburns and sun beds can increase risk for skin cancer as well as genetic defects or mutations that predispose one to skin cancer.

Next time you go for a run with the girls or hiking with your family, remember, to try run in the shade, or go early in the morning, cover up as much as possible by wearing UV protected clothing and always wear sunscreen.

To see what UV protective gear and apparel is available have a look through Columbia, Speedo and Skins. To contact Dr. Naidoo please call her on 021 531 1107.

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