5 top tips to protect your skin from sun damage this summer!
Many people enjoy sitting in the sun as it is warm, relaxing, and helps to provide us with all-important vitamin D. Adequate sun exposure is also known to help improve a number of skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis in some people. It is, however, important to be aware that even in the UK summer months, the sun should be enjoyed with a little caution.
Why is sun protection important?
A major component of maintaining healthy, glowing skin is having adequate sun protection. Exposure to the UV rays that naturally occur in sunlight is one of the main factors that cause ageing of the skin. With every-day exposure to the sun, many people can experience sunburn (that painful redness of skin that occurs with excessive UV exposure as a result of inadequate sun protection). It is important to remember that, whilst paler skin is more prone to burning and UV damage, darker skin tones can still be at risk of sunburn with higher levels of UV exposure.
Aside from avoiding premature ageing of the skin and painful sunburn, sun damage can pose a real and serious threat to your life. The risk of skin cancers increases proportionally to your overall lifetime exposure to damaging UV light and to the number of episodes of severe sunburn you have experienced. This is particularly likely in people with fairer skin.
Avoiding sun exposure completely is not necessary, and sun exposure does have some proven health benefits, so it’s important to ensure you take a few simple measures to ensure that whilst you are enjoying the summer sun, you can still stay safe and protect yourself:
Seek out shade
The best way to avoid getting burned is to stay out of the sun when it is very intense. When the sun is out, making sure you can get to the shade can provide important relief. Wearing a cap or wide-brimmed hat can particularly help to shelter the more sensitive skin on your face. Clothes can also provide protection, so covering up sensitive areas can help to prevent sunburn.
We see ‘SPF’ written on various creams and skin products, but what does it actually do? ‘SPF’ stands for ‘Sun Protection Factor’, so the higher the number, the more protection you get from UV light. If you have skin that burns easily in the sun, a good general rule is that you should use a high SPF for UV exposure wherever possible. However, using a daily face cream or moisturiser that contains SPF can give you some protection from the everyday exposure that can contribute to ageing skin over time, particularly in areas of more sensitive skin, like on the face.
It is important to ensure maximum skin protection if you are exposed to high levels of UV light. If you are travelling on holiday, or even staying outside during the UK summer, higher SPF factors are needed to protect your skin from ageing, burning and increasing your risk of skin cancers. It is also important to remember that more sensitive skin is more prone to sun-related damage, so it will need more protection with an appropriate SPF sun cream.
Watch out for…
There are a few common pitfalls that many people forget about, meaning that they end up with sunburn!
- ‘It’s cloudy – I can’t burn!’
- Whilst there is more UV light in direct sunlight, there is still UV exposure through overcast clouds. Also, watch out for those days that are clear and sunny but don’t feel particularly warm. If you have fair skin, you can still burn!
- Being around water or snow
- Sunlight reflects off snow and water, so if you are on holiday skiing or doing lots of water sports and swimming, make sure you remember to pack some sun cream!
- Remember to reapply sun cream before and after swimming and after towelling off
Relieving and treating sunburn
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can still become sunburned. This can be extremely uncomfortable and painful if it is severe, and it can be difficult to know how best to treat the sunburn.
Firstly, it is important to get out of the sun as soon as you can to give the burned skin some relief; it can burn even more if you remain exposed to the sun. Cooling the skin with a cold shower or a damp towel can also provide some immediate relief. Following this, the application of a good quality aftersun product, usually something containing aloe vera, can help to promote the skin’s natural healing. Sunburn can also be very dehydrating, so drink plenty of water to keep yourself well hydrated.
Sunburn can take up to 7 days to fully heal, and it is important to keep any burned skin out of the sun during this time, either by staying in the shade, covering burned areas of skin, applying plenty of high SPF sun cream or ideally all three!
If your sunburn is very severe and you begin to feel unwell or you have swollen or blistered skin, you may need to see a doctor urgently.
Make sure you stay Sun-Safe this summer and enjoy the sunshine with our top tips!
- Find the shade
- Apply daily SPF to protect skin from UV exposure and slow sun-related ageing
- Wear a high SPF sun cream for protection from intense sun, particularly on sensitive skin
- Watch out for the common pitfalls, you can still get burned whilst surrounded by snow or water
- If you do get burned, find some relief from the sun and seek medical advice if you begin to feel unwell