Sun, Sea, Sand… and Sunburn?

 In Face, Skin, Skin cancer

It’s nearly that time when hundreds of thousands of us jet off on holiday or head for the UK’s beaches in the hope of sunshine and scorching Summer temperatures.

But sometimes our skin can take a beating over the Summer, and never more so than when we are on holiday. If you’ve ever experienced the misery of sunburn or sunstroke, you’ll know that these have no place in a happy holiday.

How can you enjoy the sun at the same time as protecting your skin?

We’ve all heard the messages about covering up and using sunscreen but not all of us heed them. But, at the risk of sounding a bit preachy it is a good idea to take precautions like these and here’s why.

In hotter countries and even in the UK at the height of Summer it can take as little as 15 minutes to get burned.

Too much UV radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, the cells can begin growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.

Try to make it a habit to put on suncream first thing in the morning as you are getting dressed. And remember to top it up throughout the day, particularly if you are swimming.

Know which SPF works for you

Guidelines recommend using suncreams with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 as a minimum. They go up to factor 50 and the higher the SPF the better in terms of protecting your skin.

If you have very fair skin or in the case of children and babies, covering up can be the best way to avoid skin damage.

Try wearing loose, long sleeve tops or robes on the beach. And a hat with a brim will help to protect your head and face – this is particularly important for children. 

People don’t always realise that suncreams have a shelf life – normally two or three years – so it’s worth checking that yours is still in date. Some suncreams protect against both UVA and UVB rays and these are called broad-spectrum suncreams.

Ideally choose a broad-spectrum suncream that is rated four or five stars. If you are prone to skin irritation, choose a suncream that is made for children, even as an adult. And don’t forget areas such as the tops of your feet, the tip of your nose and your ears which can be extremely painful if they get burned.

Take a break from the peak of the sun

It is a good idea to stay out of the sun when it is at its peak in the middle of the day (11am to 3pm). If you are going to be out at this time, make sure you top up your suncream frequently and/or cover up to avoid getting burned.

We can quickly become dehydrated on hot Summer’s days so make sure you drink plenty of water – and if you are drinking alcohol, remember that this could increase dehydration, so up your water intake.

It’s easy to believe that the sun is out and out bad for us, but this is not the case.

In fact, our bodies rely on sunlight to produce Vitamin D, which is an essential vitamin that we need for strong, healthy bones.

Some research suggests Vitamin D might also protect against a whole range of serious conditions including some cancers.

So, the message is that there is no need to avoid the sun completely – in fact in moderation it is good for us. But you should be aware of the risks of too much sun exposure – particularly in children or if you have fair skin – and take sensible steps to protect yourselves.

Happy and skin-safe holidays!