Stay Safe in the Sun
Finally summer seems to have arrived! I don’t know about you but I just love relaxing in the sun with a good book and a nice drink, but what I really don’t like is sunburn! It hurts, it looks bad and it stops you going out in the sun for at least a day or two. But of course more importantly sunburn indicates damage to the skin which can lead to sun spots, wrinkles and most worryingly of all skin cancer. I am definitely seeing a rise in the number of people consulting me with cancerous or pre-cancerous skin lesions over the last few years.
So what can we do to prevent this? I love the easy to remember phrase from the Australian Sun Smart campaign to remind us of the things we can do to protect our bodies in the beautiful hot sunny weather:
“Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide”
Firstly, “slip” on some clothing. Covering up our skin in particularly bright sunlight will help stop the UV rays causing damage. But remember thin, loosely woven and often pale coloured clothing will let quite a bit of UV rays through. A good tip is if you hold the clothing up to the sunlight and can see the sun through it then it is going to let the damaging UV rays through. Look for dark coloured, tightly woven fabrics, or even better something like a rash vest which will usually come with a UPF rating (the higher the rating the better the protection from UV rays).
There is a great document on the best type of clothing to wear in the Sun on the Sun Smart website.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly of all “slop” on some sunscreen. When buying sunscreen look for one which offers broad spectrum coverage, which will offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays and also look for the 4 or 5 star UVA protection symbol.
The SPF or Sun Protection Factor is a measure of how long the sunscreen will protect you from the damaging effects of the sun. If applied perfectly and SPF of 30 would allow you to be out in the sun without getting burnt for 30 times as long as you could without sunscreen. So if you would normally burn within 10 minutes of being in the sun, SPF 30 if applied exactly as it is meant to be and with no sunscreen being rubbed off during this period, would allow you to stay out for 300 minutes without being burnt. In reality though as I will explain in a bit we don’t apply it perfectly and being active means some of it will rub off so it is best to reapply every 2 hours.
Dermatologists recommend that we all use an SPF of at least 30, the lower SPFs let through a higher percentage of damaging UV light and so are best avoided - for example SPF 30 will let through 3% of damaging UVB rays compared to SPF 15 letting through 7% which is over double the amount.
The problem that a lot of people have with sunscreen and why they might feel it doesn’t work for them, is that it really does have to be applied properly. In general we use far far less than we should and if you don’t apply enough of the sunscreen it can’t work effectively to stop you getting burnt. For an adult you need to apply about a teaspoon of sun cream to each arm and each leg, a teaspoon to your head and neck and a teaspoon each for your front and back - so that’s over 2 tablespoons to properly protect a whole body. And don’t forget those easy to miss areas like your ears and back of your neck because gosh they get sore if they burn!
Sunscreen also needs to be applied about 20 minutes BEFORE you go out in the sun not whilst you are in the sun, and then needs to be re-applied every 2 hours and sooner if you get wet, sweat a lot or rub it off, which you could do for example if you’re lying on a towel. Some sunscreens claim they will offer whole day protection but dermatology advice is that it is important to reapply every 2 hours because the claims about whole day protection are based on studies in a lab with perfect application, in real life sunscreen will rub off on clothes and with activity, sweat and water so will need re-application.
There are so many different brands of sunscreen out there, so there should be one that suits you perfectly. If you suffer with sensitive skin or eczema there are a few brands we specifically recommend, such as the Anthelios range from La Roche-Posay; Sunsense Ultra; and Uvistat.
Make sure you don’t use sunscreen beyond it’s expiry date. Most sunscreens can last for 2-3 years if stored in ideal conditions. Look for the picture of the open pot on the back of the bottle, within the pot there will a number followed by the letter M, this is how many months the product will last after it has been opened. But remember if the cream has got hot being stored in a car then it will need replacing sooner.
Thirdly “slap” on a hat to protect your scalp, forehead and ears. The wider brim the better and if you have short hair consider getting one that covers the back of your neck also. There are some gorgeous hats out there for men and women, I particularly love the Hicks and Brown summer fedoras which are super stylish and have that lovely country twist with the feather pin.
And the gorgeous Annabel Brocks Beach hats are wonderful because they have an UVF 50 sun protection rating and even better are crushable so really easy to pack for holidays.
If you’re doing activities like walking, shooting or working outdoors consider a baseball cap as the projecting peak will protect your head and face from the sun. For an absolute classic country look the Fairfax and Favor hats have got to be the go-to baseball cap for all of us!
Don’t be like the “mad dogs and Englishmen” phrase, “seek” shade during the hottest time of the day, usually 11am to 3pm. That could be natural shade like sitting under the shade cast by a big tree or under a pergola or sun parasol. Even in the shade though you can still get burnt so don’t forget the sunscreen and wear a hat.
Finally don’t forget your precious eyes and “slide” on some sun glasses. Your eyes are so sensitive to UV damage and not wearing them can contribute to cataract development later in life which can affect your eyesight and require an operation. The best sunglasses are the wrap around style as they will provide the best protection from harmful UV rays. Look for the British (12312-1:2013 E) or European (CE) standard marks
Don’t forget that even through clouds the sun can still be damaging. Check the UV index which is shown on most weather apps now, and apply sun protection if the UV index is above 3/4. A UV index of 6/7 is high and indicates you are likely to get sun damage if you don’t use sun protection.
I hope this article is helpful and that instead of being scared of the sun, it will leave you feeling respectful of it and with some good tips on how to enjoy this beautiful weather whilst minimising any ill effects.