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7 Sun Safety Tips from the British Skin Foundation

11

Jun

Jess O'Sullivan

Jess O'Sullivan

Hermione Lawson from the British Skin Foundation shares her top sun-safety tips to protect your skin this summer...

People wrongly associate having a tan with being healthy. The truth is that it’s actually a sign that your skin is being damaged. The dark pigment that gives the skin its natural colour is called melanin which is made in the skin by cells called melanocytes. After our skin is exposed to sunlight, the melanocytes make more melanin to try to absorb UV radiation, and so the skin becomes darker, giving that ‘tanned look’.

It’s worth pointing out that getting burnt doesn’t necessarily equate to a tan either, this will depend on your skin type. Those with skin type one (fair skin that rarely tans) will burn and not tan. Sunburn is another sign that your skin is getting damaged, so never allow yourself to burn, as this will significantly increase your chances of developing skin cancer at a later stage.

In the short term, sunburn can often lead to the skin peeling with the skin appearing red and feeling very sore and hot. In the long term, by allowing yourself to burn, you substantially increase the risk of developing skin cancer at a later stage. Although the peeling and soreness will heal and go, it’s more the damage done that you can’t see that is the worrying aspect. What’s more, over exposure to UVA radiation from the sun will also accelerate the skin ageing process, leading to leathery skin.

Here’s what to do to avoid sunburn and stay safe in the sun:

1. Protect the skin and not just with sunscreen

Protect the skin with loose clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat that ideally covers the ears and the back of the neck, two places that are frequently missed when applying sunscreen to the head. Also, wear some UV protective sunglasses. Remember sunscreen should be used in addition to, and never in place of, these simple measures.

2. Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when it’s sunny

This is when the sun is at its strongest in the day. Of course, the strength of the sun will also depend on the time of year and your geographical location. On really hot, sunny days if there is something you know you need to do outside and you won’t have any shade protection, it might be worth considering putting it off until later on in the day if you can. No-one is saying to stay in the shade completely during this time, though it’s worth seeking shade to avoid getting burnt.

3. Find the right sunscreen for you

The British Skin Foundation would recommend you opt for a high factor sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, as well as a UVA rating of four or five stars. More recently the UVA system has changed so that those with a high UVA rating will now feature the letters ‘UVA’ inside a circle. The sun protection factor (SPF) primarily shows the level of protection against UVB radiation from the sun (which is the type that causes sunburn and skin cancer). You may choose to go with an even higher SPF, especially if you have very fair skin that burns easily, in which case opt for SPF 50. UVA radiation, associated with skin ageing, can penetrate glass, so even if you’re inside a vehicle, it’s still worth slapping on a layer of sunscreen on exposed skin.

4. Re-apply

In general you need to re-apply every couple of hours. However, you should bear in mind that you’ll need to re-apply more often as sweating and general contact may cause the sunscreen to come off, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to re-application. It may be worth carrying a small bottle with you, or having a few dotted around the place so that you don’t get caught out.

5. How much sunscreen to use?

Most people simply do not put sunscreen on as thickly or as thoroughly as they ought to. Areas which are frequently missed include the back and sides of the neck, temples and ears, so make an extra effort to remember those places.

It’s difficult to recommend the correct amount of sunscreen that you should apply as each person and each product is different. As a rough guide, when using lotions, the bare minimum you should try to apply is at least six full teaspoons (approximately 36 grams) to cover the body of an average adult, which is more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen to each arm and the face/neck (including ears), and just over one teaspoon to each leg, front of body and back of body. This is the amount used when products are tested for their SPF (it equates to 2 mg /cm²).

6. Know your skin type!

This is essential and will help you determine what level of protection you need in the sun. Skin types range from type 1 (those who have fair skin that never tans and burns easily), through to type 6 (black and dark Asian skin). Those with type 1 skin should being using high protection sunscreen, and should be especially careful to protect their skin with clothing and shade as they are at the highest risk of sunburn, and subsequently the risk of skin cancer.

7. Burning on cloudy days…

Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is cloudy when you head outdoors, not only can the weather change quickly but you can still burn on a cloudy day as the sun’s UV rays are still able to penetrate through cloud, albeit not in quite as high proportions as a cloudless sky. During the summer (and late spring and early autumn) it is always better to be safe than be sorry and take the usual precautions by applying sunscreen (SPF 30 and over) and covering up with loose clothing and a hat.

 

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