As summer has arrived, plenty of holidaymakers and people at home will be wanting to enjoy the weather. But before they head into the sun, now is the perfect time to remember some important safety steps to avoid sun burn, or potentially much more harmful effects of too much sun exposure.
If you’re wanting to work on your tan, it’s always important to stay protected from the aggressive rays of the sun. Skin becomes tanned because of a protection mechanism initiated by damage from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In other words, although tanned skin is often looked upon as a healthy look, tanned skin is actually the opposite and is a sign of sun damage.
One of the best ways to stay protected during the blistering heat of the summer is the application of sun cream.
Sun creams offer different levels of protection. It is referred to as the sun protection factor (SPF) and has levels ranging from 15, 30 and 50+. Factor 50 sun cream offers a high level of protection and is best for those who have a history of skin cancer or those who are fair skinned. There isn’t that much of a difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30, but the difference in coverage between SPF 30 and SPF 50 lessens considerably faster.
If you’re new to applying sun cream then knowing when it’s best to apply it won’t be common knowledge. To get the best results, it’s best to practice applying it every day, 30 minutes before venturing outside to allow the sun cream to bind to the skin and provide adequate protection. Once applied, it should be re-applied every two hours of exposure and immediately after swimming or excessive exercise that causes increased sweating. Water and sweat will reduce the effectiveness of sun cream. It’s also important to remember to apply it even when it’s cloudy. The UV rays from the sun still reach the earth just as well with or without clouds. Never underestimate the protection you still need on an overcast day; skin damage is still possible.
Sun cream brands
There are plenty of different sun cream brands to choose from, such as Nivea Sun Cream, Piz Buin Sun Cream, that offer great protection.
When choosing a brand, make sure that it has broad-spectrum protection, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the type of sun ray that prematurely ages the skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, whilst UVB rays cause sun burn. Exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Almost all of the mainstream best sun cream products will always have broad-spectrum protection, others that don’t have this distinction are likely to be cheap knock-offs.
Extra care should be taken when choosing sun cream for a child. Children are more susceptible to damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight. Children aged under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.
In the UK it is recommended that children wear at least a SPF 30 sun cream from March to October. Brands made specifically for children include Childs Farm Sun Cream. This cream offers maximum protection, whilst also being water-resistant and broad-spectrum. Childs Farm Sun Cream should be applied to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of the hands.
Children and adults who suffer from dry skin should be on the look out for sun cream brands that are labelled as ‘comedogenic-free’. If no comedogenic-free products are available, moisturizers with sun screen protections and hydrating ingredients are a suitable alternative.
Below is a list of some of the best sun cream products currently available for purchase online and in retail stores:
Sun damage and its effects on the skin
Not properly protecting yourself with sun cream and an appropriate amount of clothing will eventually cause sun burn and a sun burn blister.
Sun burn is hot and sore skin caused by too much sun. The skin may begin to flake and peel after a couple of days. Depending on where the sun burn is located, you can more than likely treat it yourself. It will usually get better within 7 days.
Sun burn can be identified if any of the following symptoms are present on the skin; feels hot to touch, feels sore or painful, or begins to flake after a couple of days. Sun burn will present itself differently in people who have fairer skin and darker skin. People with fairer skin will notice redness or pinkness, whereas people with darker skin may not notice a change at all.
If the sun burn is severe enough, a sun burn blister may form on the skin. Sun burn blisters are small, painful blisters that form on the skin. They may look like bubbles on the skin and will typically take up to a week for them to disappear. Additional symptoms may present themselves, such as nausea, dehydration, fever and dizziness.
Blisters on the skin are categorised as a 2nd degree burn from sun. The degree of burn differs depending on the amount of damage that has been caused. A 2nd degree burn from sun damage increases the chances of developing skin cancer and melanoma. Burned scalp from sun exposure is another area of the body that will experience pain if not properly protected. Symptoms of a sun burned scalp are basically the same as elsewhere on the body, and include; redness, feeling hot to the touch, tenderness, itching and small blisters. In order to prevent a burned scalp from sun exposure, simply cover the scalp with a suitable hat/cap.
Do not rely on sun cream and other sunscreen protection methods to protect yourself from the sun. Suitable clothing should be worn at all times during excessive sun exposure, and time in the shade should be taken when the sun is at its hottest.
Also, an under looked area of the body when it comes to sun protection is the eyes. Without proper eye protection, the eyes can suffer burns to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn experienced on the skin. Reflected sunlight from snow, sand, concrete and water, is particularly dangerous.
Other ways to protect yourself from sun damage include a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears, a long-sleeved top, trousers or long skirts that don’t allow sunlight through, and sunglasses with wraparound lenses.
You should take extra precautions in the sun if you:
- Have pale, white or light brown skin
- Have freckles or red or fair hair
- Tend to burn rather than tan
- Have many moles
- Have skin problems relating to a medical condition
- Are only exposed to intense sun occasionally
- Are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
- Have a family history of skin cancer