Your complete guide to staying safe in the sun

Your complete guide to staying safe in the sun

Beyond sunscreen

Text: Lam Bee Lan


Think you're sun smart? Skin doctor Dr Lam Bee Lan gives us some little-known tips on how to really protect yourself in the sun

Sure you may think you know all there is to know about sunscreen and sun protection. Like how you need to apply sunblock at least twenty minutes before exposure, and that you need a full teaspoon of sunscreen (or 5ml) just to effectively cover your entire face. But did you know there are other ways you can protect yourself beyond just slapping on the white stuff? And that your post-sun regimen is just as important as what you do before you head out? Find out more.

1. Try oral sun care
A lot of people have the misconception that applying topical sunscreen is more than enough, and end up purchasing products with an SPF 100+ protection. In reality, SPF50 is the highest level with proven efficacy, and it still requires re-application every three to four hours. For office workers, a minimum of SPF30 is recommended to protect skin from indoor lighting.

Internal care also plays a huge factor, so oral protection such as Heliocare Oral and Heliocare Oral Ultra come highly recommended. With added ingredients such as fernblock — an extract from Podium leucotomos — a fern originating from Central America and vitamins C and E, these oral sunscreens go hand in hand with topical ones to work deep within the skin layers to protect skin from UV damage.

Heliocare Ultra

2. Use good sunglasses 
Whilst UV rays might show the most obvious effects on our skin, they can actually affect our eyes in a very large way. With constant exposure to the sun, UV radiation can ultimately harm the lens and cornea of the eyes and increase the odds of getting cataracts and diminished eyesight in old age. To ensure proper sun defense, sunglasses should come with complete UVA/UVB protection and a UV400 protection rating. You can opt for polarised lenses if you spend a lot of time on water, as they help reduce glare by filtering out reflected sunlight on surfaces.

To ensure that your sunglasses mold to your face, test them by checking if they fit snugly on the nose and ears without pinching or rubbing. Large lenses can naturally help cover a wider area of skin; if you select one that fits closely yet comfortably from the brow area down to the cheekbones, you'll be well protected against the sun.

Victoria Beckham

3. Wear a hat
The right hat comes in handy especially on scorching hot days where we find ourselves squinting just to see ahead. Usually a wide-brimmed hat, at 3-inches or greater, helps with this issue of vision difficulty and covers the places where it's tough to apply sunscreen: the top of the ears and the back of the neck.

Fashion trends aside, a hat made with the right material is quintessential to sun safety. Some hats are made based on a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) and typically designed with synthetic materials like polyester. While straw hats seem to be the most common choice amongst travellers in tropical climates, it's important to check that they come with very tight weaves so that sun rays don't pass through them.


4. Go for total protection
Unknown to many, getting skin damage from sun exposure on the lips, eyelids and ears is actually very common. In countries where temperatures can rise up to the high 40s, people constantly face a high risk of burns.

For the lips, purchase lip balms that not only come packed with hydration but also with SPF protection. Since standard sunscreen cannot be applied around the eye area due to their properties that may be too irritating or rich, use eye creams with sunscreen ingredients such as titanium dioxide instead. If you have sensitive skin, select eye creams without fragrances. The back of our ears and necks are easily forgotten, but by constantly reminding ourselves to apply sunscreen everywhere, this can be countered too.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF15

5. Aftercare is just as important
Asians typically tan instead of turning lobster red in comparison to their Caucasian counterparts but that doesn't mean that they should ignore post-sun care after a long day at the beach — UV damage can accumulate over decades and only show up much later. Besides preventing accelerated ageing, post-sun treatments can thwart any skin diseases caused by long periods of sun exposure.

After a long day of swimming or outdoor activities, head back for a cool shower or bath to soothe the skin. Apply a nourishing lotion or moisturiser directly after, so that hydration is locked in and the skin's repair process is aided. Also, remember to give your skin time to recover from sun exposure by avoiding harsh, irritating cleansers and delaying any waxing or shaving treatments as well.

Burt's Bees Aloe & Linden Flower After Sun Soother