We all love to feel the sun on our skin during the warmer months. Not only does it make us feel good, but the sun also provides us with plenty of essential vitamins like vitamin D.
At The McIndoe Centre, we understand the importance of sun safety and want to share some guidance on how to prevent sun damage while still enjoying the enriching benefits that the sunshine can offer.
What Are the Dangers of UV Rays?
Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is a form of non-ionizing radiation produced by the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds. Exposure to harmful UV rays can cause many issues, such as:
- Premature ageing of the skin
- Liver spots
- Leathery skin
- Solar elastosis
- Actinic keratosis
- Skin cancer
- Inflamed or burned corneas
One of the most common causes is sunburn. Repeat sunburn will start to alter the appearance of your skin by accelerating the ageing process. You may notice that your skin looks drier than usual and more wrinkled over time. Severe sunburn can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and can even increase your risk of skin cancer.
Over-exposure to UV rays can increase your risk of severe illnesses like skin cancer. This has become one of the most common cancers in the UK. This type of cancer slowly develops in the skin and can be fatal without the proper treatment.
How to Prevent UV Damage
Although skin cancer is not 100% preventable, there are some things you can do to minimise your risk and avoiding over-exposure to UV rays is one of them. This includes:
- Check the UV index
- Applying sun cream
- Wear sun protective clothing
- Seek out shade
- Limit UV exposure at higher altitudes
- Avoid sunbeds
- Get a skin cancer screening
1. Check The UV Index
The UV index forecast is a reliable resource to look at. It is an international standard measurement that will give you an idea of the strength of UV radiation in your area. It acts as a gentle reminder to keep applying your sun cream and wear sun-protected clothing.
It is important to regularly check the UV index before stepping outside. The UV index could still be relatively high on days when you might think it looks a bit cloudy and gloomy outside. You can easily access the UV index via weather apps on your electronic devices.
2. Apply Sun Cream
Being exposed to the sun’s UV rays is unavoidable, but the strength of UV rays will differ throughout the day. For example, they are stronger during the spring and summer months and in the middle of the day. However, it’s important to always apply sun cream, especially in the warmer months. When you are out in the sun, you must wear a high sun protection factor (SPF) sun cream to ensure you are protected.
There are a few things to look out for when shopping for suncream. You should pay close attention to the factor; it measures how well the product will protect you from the sun’s harmful UVB rays. Ideally, you should choose a sun cream with an SPF of at least 30. It should also have at least a 4-star UVA protection.
There are a few go-to rules for using and applying sun cream. Take a look at our sun cream top tips below:
How Much Sun Cream to Use
Don't be afraid to apply a generous layer of sun cream to your body. Generally, you should aim to use around 45ml of sun cream each time you apply - about the size of a shot glass.
How To Apply Sun Cream
Rather than vigorously rubbing the sun cream into your skin, smoothly massage it in and ensure you cover all exposed areas. Your skin should look glistening when you are done.
What Areas of the Body to Cover
You should cover all exposed areas of the body. This includes your face, lips, ears, and even the back of your hands.
How Often to Apply Sun Cream
You should apply sun cream regularly throughout the day. Ideally, every two hours. Use it every day, regardless of the weather. Even if it looks cloudy, UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds. So, always have your sun cream on hand to top up.
3. Sun Protection Clothing and Accessories
Although wearing sun cream holds huge importance, you must also make an effort to cover up by wearing sun-protected clothing. This will stop harmful UV rays from damaging the skin. Some of the most popular forms of sun protection clothing include hats, UV protection sunglasses, and long, breathable clothing. The material of the clothing you choose is also essential. Thicker fabrics like linen and denim - will be more effective at blocking harmful UV rays from penetrating your skin. Sunglasses with lenses that have a 99% to 100% UV absorption provide optimal protection for the eyes.
4. Limit Your Time in the Sun and Seek Shade
The best way to avoid sun damage is to not go in the sun. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether. After all, the sun provides many vitamins and minerals that we need. However, you must know when to give yourself a break and seek some shade. For example, if you have been doing some gardening in the sunshine, take regular intervals to sit in the shade. Use this time to reapply your sun cream and remain hydrated.
It is also advisable to avoid spending a long time in the sun when it is at its strongest. In the UK, this is generally between 11 am and 3 pm - March to October. This is to ensure that you do not get a sunburn, as it accelerates skin ageing and is a leading cause in the majority of cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
5. Limit Exposure at Higher Altitudes
UV exposure at high elevations is much greater than at sea level. In fact, the WHO warns that for every 1000 m increase in altitude, the UV radiation level will jump about 10%. Exercise caution when climbing or hiking and reapply your sun cream.
6. Avoid Sunbeds
Like the sun, sunbeds emit harmful UV rays. Many people use them to help them develop a tan. However, they are highly dangerous and pose many risks to your health. You should avoid using sunbeds at all costs. Evidence has brought to light the harmful link between exposure to UV rays and skin cancer. People who regularly expose themselves to UV rays before the age of 25 - are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Some sunbeds give out stronger UV rays than the sun, demonstrating how powerful and dangerous they can be. The long-term damage they can cause can impact the rest of your life.
7. Get A Skin Cancer Screening
You must prioritise getting skin check-ups, especially as you get older. They can help you detect early signs of severe health issues like skin cancer, so doctors can work quickly to treat it. Each area of your skin will be examined to look for changes to moles, recent skin damage, and mole mapping. Getting an early diagnosis increases your chances of survival, especially if you are suffering from a condition like skin cancer. You should always be vigilant with your skin - and look for any changes to moles using the ABCDE rule, which you can learn more about on our common signs of skin cancer page.
If you have any questions regarding sun safety - or are worried you may have sun damage, don't hesitate to get in touch with The McIndoe Centre. Our friendly team are always on hand to answer your queries.
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