I love the sun, it keeps me warm and makes me smile. I long for beautiful sunny days to be outdoors enjoying nature. As South Africans we are blessed to live in one of the top 10 sunniest countries in the world according to the U.N

There are many benefits to the sun, the first of which is how it keeps us happy. A study recently published in the UK showed spending an extra hour in the sun daily leads to lower levels of depression and a longer lifespan. The reason for this lies in the hormone called serotonin, otherwise known as the happiness hormone. Sunshine helps our bodies create more serotonin, making us feel happier.

The sun also keeps illness away. When we are exposed to the sun the body starts producing vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for reducing the risk of certain diseases and keeping our bones, muscles and teeth healthy.

It is important for us to get a good deal of sun but we also need to be aware of the dangers of how it can affect our skin.



The outer layer of our skin contains collagen and elastin which keeps the skin smooth and tight. When our skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun the collagen and elastin is broken down which in turn leads to fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.

Let’s dive deeper into how this works:

The sun emits three types of rays, UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is the most dangerous but thankfully these are mostly blocked by the earth’s ozone layer. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause a lot of damage to our skin and we need protection from both.

These rays penetrate deep into the outer and middle dermal layers of the skin. Ongoing exposure to the sun’s radiation causes the breakdown of collagen fibers which in turn increases elastin production. This imbalance leads to the sagging and wrinkling of the skin.

One of the most common effects of the sun is freckles and sun spots. We have pigment cells in our skin that become damaged when exposed to sunshine and cause blemishes to become larger.

And finally the sun can cause skin cancer. Skin cancer is caused by the UV radiation from the sun breaking down the DNA in our skin. DNA is responsible for controlling how our cells function, if these cells are damaged, over time they can begin to grow uncontrollably which leads to skin cancer.

There are three main types of skin cancer, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the most deadly as it can spread rapidly throughout the body while the other two tend to spread locally. Melanoma is primarily caused by exposure to the sun while the others can be caused by other factors such as skin type.


These simple steps can help us enjoy the sun while protecting ourselves from the damages the sun can cause:

  • Apply Sunscreen - more regularly than you think you need
To protect our skin we can make a daily habit of applying sun cream every morning. This includes on overcast and rainy days as up to 80% of the sun’s rays penetrate through cloud cover.
It is recommended by dermatologists and cancer societies that we use a minimum of SPF30, this will block up to 97% of the sun’s rays. This should be used on all skin which is exposed to the sun, especially the face, neck, chest and hands.
A lot of sun creams only provide protection from UVB rays and it is therefore important to check that your cream blocks both UVA and UVB.

  • Protect your head
Invest in a good quality sun hat. There are hats with specialist materials available that can provide an SPF50 protection. Wearing a hat as much as possible when we are outdoors and even when we are exercising can provide excellent protection.

  • Choose your sun-time wisely
Avoid direct sunlight, especially in the hottest hours of the day between 10am and 2pm. Sitting under a tree or in a sheltered area will help keep the damage at bay.

  • Block, block, block
Wearing dark, tight knit clothing that covers most of our skin provides protection from the sun’s harmful rays better than light, flowy fabric.

  • Rebuild your collagen
To slow down the aging process we can consume more collagen in our diets to help our skin as we age. Collagen is found naturally in foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish and soy. We can also take it a step further by adding an excellent quality collagen supplement, such as Be Bright to our diet daily.

  • Invest in the right sun stoppers
Sunglasses are excellent at protecting the delicate skin around our eyes and also help to avoid cataracts which can be caused by too much sun exposure.

These small daily routines can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing.
We can also teach our children the same lessons and get them into the routine of applying their suncreen and putting a hat on before they start their day.



We don't need to fear the sun. After all, it is the giver of all life on Earth. However, it should always be respected. Enjoy being outside while also taking the necessary precautions to take care of our skin. Believe me, your older self will thank your younger self.

December 19, 2022