Here in Australia, when working outdoors you must make looking after your skin a priority. With high UV rates and a statistically disproportionate skin cancer rate in our population, we are one of the most vulnerable countries in the world regarding sun exposure.
People of all ages and genders should be aware of the dangers to their skin. You need to know how to protect your skin and the best ways to maintain your skin health. You need to know the important facts about the sun, and what to be careful of. Let’s outline why all those things you’ve been told about skin safety are not just for show!
Taking care when working outdoors
Many Australians spend a lot of time outdoors, especially when working. Many of us can be so focussed on the task at hand that we forget to protect our skin. But regardless of how busy you are, you should always look to protect your skin when working outside.
You should always be aware that the sun doesn’t have to be ‘out’ for it to damage your skin. If the skies are overcast, or even if the weather is cold, it is still possible you won’t be protected. So you should be aware of ultraviolet (UV) ratings. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia has one of the highest levels of UV exposure in the world, and “you can still get burnt on cool or cloudy days – so think UV, not heat”. B.O.M states that you should protect yourself against the sun when the UV index is at 3 or above. For further context, when working outdoors you get exposed to around ten times as much UV radiation as indoors.
The good news is there are many ways to protect yourself. Your clothing is essential. Long sleeves and long trousers can protect your arms and legs. Clothing obviously will need to be well ventilated to avoid overheating on those glorious but super hot days. Light-coloured clothes generally draw less heat, and loose-fitting clothes allow more air to get through, which can cool you down. Wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses also protects your eyes & face.
Sunscreen is a daily essential in sun protection. Pro tip: use properly by applying every day to unprotected skin. This includes your face before you put on makeup and even in Winter. An SPF rating of 50+ is highly recommended. Make sure you never use sunscreen that is out of date, and please, ignore the myth that cosmetics provide strong protection! Yes, some cosmetics contain a small amount of SPF, but the level of protection is incomparable to sunscreen. When asked what is the best anti-aging cream, Dr Rich always replies, “SPF 50+ sunscreen – every day – at every age”.
You should always take these measures seriously. If you need to take your hat off briefly, have a break from working and find some shade. Space your workout to limit sun exposure during the most intense periods (generally between 10 am and 4 pm). Even bring a change of clothes if they’re likely to get extremely hot. Quite simply, you shouldn’t let discomfort inhibit your skin protection measures.
Finally, when working on a high UV rating day, do tasks inside or in the shade whenever possible. You should take every opportunity to cool down and avoid UV exposure.
How intense is the sun in Australia?
Skin colour (amount of melanin in the skin), genetics and heritage are as widely dispersed as any modern European country; however, Australia has over ten times the rate of melanoma compared to Europe. This is mainly due to different atmospheric conditions in this part of the world, which exposes Australians to roughly 15% more UV radiation than Europeans.
Once upon a time, our genetics could correlate with our environment. Broadly speaking, evolution had dictated that people in hotter parts of the world had darker skin. Lighter skin contains less melanin, which provides some degree of protection against UV radiation, and immigration has led to some people being in areas not suited to their skin. Of course, those with darker skin should also protect themselves.
As we can see, UV rating is an important measure as to the potency of the sun. But just how important is it? According to cancer.org.au, UV “radiation is the invisible killer that you can’t see or feel”. UV radiation can cause burns in just 11 minutes of exposure. UV rating days of 1-2 are considered mild, and sunscreen is not recommended. However, moderate (3-5), high (6-7), very high (8-10) and extreme (11 and above) UV radiation days are all sunscreen days.
You should always be clear on what the rating is. The rating varies significantly at any given time during the day around Australia, so be sure you are getting the most relevant, local information. Most phone weather apps, including B.O.M., have UV alerts or measures visible.
Unfortunately, Australians have not been heeding the warnings, as we have the world’s highest rate of skin cancer. Rates of melanoma increased by 60% in the years between 1982 and 2010, despite research and warning around sun protection rapidly increasing.
What you should do to maintain skin health
There are also other tips to help maintain healthy skin when.
- Stop smoking – our skin benefits significantly if you don’t smoke. Smoking can decrease blood flow in the blood vessels in your skin, and it lessens the oxygen and nutrients in your skin. Yet another great reason to give it up!
- Be gentle with your skin. Limit time spent in hot water (such as in a shower or bath).
- Moisturise and cleanse! You should moisturise your skin daily, use mild cleansers, and always be careful when shaving.
- Have a regular peel – Man or woman, this quick, cost-effective skin pick me up every 4-6 weeks can help to maintain good skin health. Our skin peels at ENRICH start from just $60 and can take under 30 minutes to perform.
- Book in for an annual skin check – having regular skin cancer and mole checks, especially if you are an outdoor worker, is a skin health must-do. Early detection of skin cancer, both melanoma and Non-melanoma skin cancer, can be life-saving.
Ensure you know your skin. Sun exposure can lead to freckles (which are cute when you are young but more like age spots as you get older, moles, premature ageing and other skin issues. We can help with your skin health at ENRICH Clinic. Call 03 9500 500 to have a chat or make an appointment for a consultation. Contact us today!