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12th May 2020

How to avoid sun damage and be sun safe

In the UK we all love to soak up the summer sun. Research has also linked sun exposure to happiness and improved mood, so it’s all the more important for us to get out into the great outdoors.(1) Yet, we shouldn’t ignore the potential harm that sun damage can bring to our skin and the potential risk of skin cancers from too much sun exposure.

The question is, how can we get the benefits of the sun, whilst still protecting ourselves? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are 5 tips on how to avoid sun damage to your skin.

Tip 1: Be UV Smart

The UV index is an indication of the strength of sunburn producing ultraviolet (UV) radiation at a particular place and time.; the higher the number, the stronger the UV radiation. Wearing sunscreen year-round is advised to avoid sun damage however on days where the UV index 3 or higher, sun protection is absolutely required. At these levels 3, UV radiation can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. UV levels are not constant, nor can they be judged by how sunny or hot it is. So using an app is an easy way to keep an eye on UV levels and plan not just your sun protection accordingly, but also the right time to go outside for an extended period. UV levels are at their highest between 10am-4pm and it’s best to avoid being in direct sunlight.

Tip 2: Follow the teaspoon rule2

Applying a good quality SPF50+ Sunscreen is a must at every point in the year, but especially during summer. Make sure to apply 1 teaspoon to each limb as well as a half-teaspoon each to the face, neck, and ears. Reapply every 2 hours, or as indicated on the label, as well as after swimming, sweating, and towel drying for maximum efficacy.

Tip 3: Commonly Missed Areas

Even those of us who think we are being meticulous about applying SPF may be making the mistake of missing important areas of the face and body.3 Some commonly missed areas of the body are the bridge of the nose, the ears, the upper back, shoulders, and feet. Take extra time when applying sunscreen to ensure all-over coverage. Get a friend to help for those harder to reach areas!

Tip 4: Dress to Impress

It’s important to remember that just because you’ve applied sunscreen doesn’t mean you have a free pass to spend all day in the sun. No sunscreens are truly once a day! Sunscreen is an important protective measure, but you should also utilise other forms of physical defence including hats, long-sleeved clothing and sunglasses to protect your skin and. The ideal hat would be wide-brimmed should have at least a 7.5 cm brim4 to provide adequate protection and clothing should be tightly knit to keep harmful UV rays off the skin. While it may seem like overkill, you will look absolutely fabulous in your fashionable, floppy sunhat and big sunnies, while lowering your risk of developing skin or eye damage.

Tip 5: Seek The Shade. Keep it Cool.

Those of us who were raised as sun-seekers might recoil at the idea spending the day under a beach umbrella, but seeking shade, particularly during peak UV hours (10am-4pm) is crucial to protecting your skin from sun damage and premature ageing. However, keep in mind that just because you are in the shade does not mean you’re impervious to UV radiation. While shade will protect you from the majority of sun from overhead, many people don’t account for the UV rays that are bounced back from the surroundings, particularly from water and sand, so don’t rely on shade alone to provide full protection.

  1. Park A. Times. Why Sunlight Is So Good For You. [internet]. 2017. [cited 29th Dec 2017] Available from: http://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4888327/why-sunlight-is-so-good-for-you/
  2. Schneider J. The teaspoon rule of applying sunscreen. Arch Dermatol. 2002; 138: 838-839.
  3. Catchpole S. Essential Kids. The deadly spot we’re missing when we apply sunscreen. [internet]. 2017. [cited 29th Dec 2017] Available from: http://www.essentialkids.com.au/health/health-wellbeing/the-deadly-spot-were-missing-when-we-apply-sunscreen-20170711-gx8vro
  4. Slap on a hat. [internet]. [cited 29th Dec 2017] Available from: http://www.sunsmart.com.au/protect-your-skin/slap-on-a-hat
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