While it’s important to keep your skin healthy, hydrated and protected all year round, it can be a particular challenge in the summer. Excessive sun exposure is the number one preventable cause of skin cancer. – the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts as many as four out of five cases could be avoided. Here’s what you can do to minimise that risk.
1. Seek cover
The sun is at its harshest between 11am and 3pm, so keep your skin happy and avoid direct rays during this time.
2. Wrap up
Covered skin is protected skin. Tightly-woven, loosely-fitting clothing is best for comfort and for blocking the sun’s harmful rays.
3. Wear sun cream
To make sure you are getting the best protection from your sun cream, apply fifteen to thirty minutes before leaving the house. When out and about, apply every two hours – more if you are swimming or exercising.
To keep the skin on your lips protected, you can buy lip balms and lipsticks with UVA and UVB protection. Remember to reapply often, especially if you have been eating and drinking.
What you need to know about sun cream
SPF stands for sun protection factor. Experts recommend a sun cream with an SPF of 15+ or higher. However, if you are particularly prone to burning, higher really is better. The numbers work as a multiplier. So if you usually burn or redden after fifteen minutes in the sun, for example, it will take ten times as long to burn or redden if you were to apply SPF 10 (150 minutes).
It is worth remembering that SPF applies to UVB rays only. These are the rays that are responsible for sunburn and reddening. It does not apply to UVA rays, which cause skin to tan and age. Both contribute to skin cancer. It is, therefore, important to find a sun cream with a rating of four stars or more – this means it protects against both type of rays.
When applying, apply liberally and regularly to all exposed areas. Administer sun cream every two hours or so, and more frequently if you are sweating or near water. Finding a brand or type that is water-resistant may also be worthwhile if you are going to be spending a lot of time near the beach or exercising.
Too late. You’ve burned. What now?
The first (and most obvious) thing to do is to get out of the sun. Next, place damp towel on the area of the burn and make sure you are keeping yourself hydrated. Continue to drink lots of fluids to replace any that has been lost through your skin.
Depending on the severity, once it’s had a chance to cool down, you may want to take an anti-inflammatory, such as Ibuprofen, to calm the reaction.
Finally, the UV index can be high throughout the year and damaging rays can strike even when the weather is grey and dreary. Wear sun cream and check the Met Office to stay up to date with the latest UV Index Forecast.