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20th March 2017

A Guide to Sun Protection for Redheads

If you’re blessed with a glorious mane of fiery red hair and beautiful pale skin, you’re probably already aware that you’re more susceptible to the effects of the sun than your olive-skinned friends.

If you’re blessed with a glorious mane of fiery red hair and beautiful pale skin, you’re probably already aware that you’re more susceptible to the effects of the sun than your olive-skinned friends.

Redheads are affected by the UV rays of the sun more than people with any other skin type, so it’s important that you protect yourself from the damaging effects of prolonged sun exposure. We’ve put together this handy guide for redheads, so you can enjoy the sun without having to worry about your skin.

Know Your Risk

As a redhead, or someone with a redheaded child, it’s important to be aware of the risks of sun exposure to this particular skin type. Redheads carry a gene called MC1R, which increases a person’s risk of developing malignant melanoma as a result of sun exposure[1]. Scientists have found that people with the gene for red hair are less able to protect themselves against the sun’s UV rays, with people carrying the MC1R gene showing additional sun damage equivalent to spending an extra 21 years in the sun when compared to people without the gene. This means that it is vitally important for redheads to protect themselves from exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which can damage their skin more than it does people with other skin types.

Choosing Sunscreen

Choosing the right sunscreen is essential for protecting redheads’ sensitive skin from the sun. Not only do you need to choose a sunscreen that has an appropriately high sun protection factor, but it is also important to make sure it provides broad spectrum cover. Both UVA and UVB rays are damaging to the skin, so make sure that your sunscreen protects against both types. Look for sunscreens that offer sun protection factor 50/50+ to make sure that you can rely on your sunscreen on even the sunniest of days.

Cover Up

Clothing is very effective at blocking out UV rays; for example, dark clothes with a tight weave let in as little as 2% of the sun’s damaging rays[2]. Wearing cover-up clothing is a great way of protecting your skin, particularly if you are going to be out and about on a hot day. For those with fair skin, it is a good idea to wear protective clothing even when swimming, as even water-resistant sunscreens don’t provide as reliable protection as covering up does.

Protect Your Scalp

Of all the places people forget to apply sunscreen, the scalp is one of the most common and an area where redheads are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the sun. The best way to protect your scalp is to wear a hat whilst you’re outside in the sun, to prevent your scalp from painful burns and damage from the sun. If you are likely to be exposed to the sun without being able to wear a hat, you can rub an oil-free sunscreen into your parting and other exposed areas to protect them from the sun’s harmful rays.

Reapply, Reapply, Reapply

Putting on sunscreen before you leave the house and thinking you’re protected for the entire day is likely to result in some nasty sun damage. Even water-resistant sunscreen must be reapplied every four hours at least, even more frequently if you are sweating or wet. Some sunscreens require you to reapply them as often as every two hours, if you wish to maintain the SPF advertised on the bottle. It is important to reapply your sunscreen as often as the bottle recommends, as well as using the amount of product recommended. Many people do not use enough sunscreen (you should be using roughly a teaspoon per limb) and do not reapply it often enough, resulting in sunburn and even more serious sun damage over time.

Make Use of Shade

Finding a shady spot and sticking to it is another way that redheads can minimise their sun exposure. Taking a beach umbrella to shade yourself under, or finding a handy tree, will help you enjoy spending time outdoors without having to worry about damage caused by the sun’s UV rays. This is particularly important between 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest[3]. Staying inside during these hot hours, or finding a shady place to sit, will help keep you protected from sun damage.

If you want a sunscreen that you can rely on to take care of your fair skin, why not choose one of SunSense UK’s Australian Standard approved sunscreens? Browse the full collection of products online.

[1] Robles-Espinoza Carla Daniela, Roberts Nicola D., Chen Shuyang, Leacy Finbarr P., Alexandrov Ludmil B., Pornputtapong Natapol, Halaban Ruth, Krauthammer Michael, Cui Rutao, Bishop D. Timothy, Adams David J. Germline MC1R Status influences Somantic Mutation Burden in Melanoma. Nature Communications 2016; 7

[2] [internet] [Updated 2016 May 14; cited 2017 April 21] Available from:

[3] [internet] [updated 2015 December 7; cited 2017 April 21] Available from:


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