Don’t Fry Day

May 27th, 2016 Sections: Calendar, Health, Tourism
Sunscreen being applied to a young boy's skin

Sunscreen being applied to a young boy’s skin

At the beginning of the month, Max decided to go up to Karakol.  He and some friends planned to trek up to Lake Ala Kul, one of his favourite spots in Kyrgyzstan.

I did warn him that the passes might not actually be passable, (the pun doesn’t work in Russian), because the snow can still lie quite deep at altitude well into June.  As it happens, I was right … and instead they had to change their route … ending up at at another small mountain lake instead.

Even so it was an enjoyable trip … and, of course, he took lots of memorable photographs … but he did encounter a more serious problem.

When he returned to Bishkek he was appeared to be a ‘changed man’ … tired … and his appearance had changed somewhat.  He was quite sunburnt and his skin was much darker than usual … and he was sporting some lesions.

He had been caught out by the power of the sun!

I  had also tried to warn him about this … even though the weather conditions at the time were somewhat overcast,and not brilliant sunshine … so he didn’t think he would need to take sun screen with him … the damaging Ultra Violet rays of sunshine can penetrate the cloud cover and still cause problems.

Well, he’ll learn from the experience and know for next time!


Now, I tend to be quite careful in the sun … also from bitter experience.  Unlike Maxim, Andy and I both tend to turn red in the sun … and I also peel and burn quite easily.  Also, I have vitiligo, a skin condition in which some variation in pigments which offer some protection against the damaging effects of UV radiation.  Although I will do it, I don’t really like sunbathing … and will much more happily sit under an umbrella and read a book than bask in the sunshine.


It seemed appropriate to share this today, because it is Sunscreen Day … although I cannot find out who initiated the day or how long it’s been commemorated … and can only speculate that a medical or health organization created in order to promote awareness and educate people about the dangers of ultraviolet light and the problems that can arise from over-exposure to the sun.

Incidentally, today, the last Friday before the Memorial Day holiday, (and the start of the Summer holiday season in the United States), is also Don’t Fry Day … which is an initiative of the Council for Skin Cancer Prevention, established with the same motivation.

So, this year, it’s a double ‘holiday’ … and later in the summer they’ll also be Stay out of the Sun Day … to drum home the message.


While some people enjoy sunbathing, too much exposure to sunlight can be dangerous.  Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can lead, not only to sunburn, (which can be quite painful), but can also lead to more serious health problems – including skin cancer, (apparently, the most common form of cancer in the United States), premature aging of the skin, cataracts (and other eye damage), and depression of the immune system.

What’s more, children are particularly at risk and so parents are advised to take special precautions for them.

The first step is to Be SunWise – be aware of the risks … for example, look for the UV Index in weather forecasts.  The UV index can range from 0 to 12 (or even higher in some circumstances), and whereas a value of 0-2 can indicate ‘low‘ risk, (or no problems for most people as sunburn is almost unheard of), higher values indicate greater risks.  Values in the 3 to 5 are normally classified as ‘moderate‘ risk – although skin is still unlike to ‘burn’, it is advisable to avoid being in direct sunlight for more than 1 to 2 hours.  Values of 6 and 7 are considered ‘high‘ risk, with skin burning easily – within 30 to 60 minutes; while values of 8 to 10 are ‘very high‘ when skin burns quickly and 11 (or more!) as ‘extreme’ with skin burning very quickly – within 20 to 30 minutes.

In fact, these are just guidelines as a person’s skin type, pigmentation, should also be taken into account.

For example, the forecast UV index value for today in Bishkek is 7 … already High risk with skin burning easily … and so some protection is advised.  In the rest of the country it is forecast to be even higher with values of 10 in the Western oblasts – Talas and Batken.

The next step is to take measures to ensure that you Do Not Burn.  For example,

  • generously apply sunscreen – covering all the exposed skin about 15-20 minutes before going into the sun, and reapplying cover every two hours – even on cloudy days – and after swimming or sweating.

It is often recommended to use sunscreens with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) value of 30 or more – interestingly some sources actually suggest values of 15 – but some recent widely reported research suggests that it’s probably wiser to choose one with an SPF of 50 or more … because many sunscreens did not meet their advertised values when tested.  (One was claimed to have an SPF value of 50 … but in tests appeared to be the equivalent of just SPF 8 (!)).

Other research has suggested that actually people are rather abstemious in their use of sunscreen – not applying enough … not renewing the cover often enough and assuming that the sunscreen means that they can stay out in the sun for longer.

There are two main types of sunscreen – those which absorb the UV radiation (so called chemical filters) and those that reflect it, (often referred to as physical sunscreens). Some companies even offer a hybrid version of both.

The ones that reflect the radiation contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide in the ingredients and tend to leave the subject a little pasty … but the others include chemicals which can be absorbed by the body and lead to other medical problems … such as allergic reactions.  The general advice seems to be that the choice of which one to use is one of personal preference … everyone should find one that suits them best and that they are happy with.

Sunscreen can come as lotion or as sprays … the general advice is that lotions are better … people tend to apply them more evenly and sprays can also present problems because they can be inhaled.

In addition, there is a growing interest in ‘traditional’ or ‘natural’ sunscreens, using ingredients that have been used down the centuries – before the mid twentieth c entury when the modern concoctions were introduced by cosmetic companies.

  • wear appropriate clothing to offer protection – such as long sleeved t-shirts, trousers rather than ‘short shorts’ a hat and sunglasses.
  • stay out of the midday sun – that is between 10am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and
  • seek shade whenever possible
  • use extra caution when near Water, Snow and Sand – as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase the chance of sunburn.


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