Most of us love the sunshine – and our bodies need it to absorb essential Vitamin D. But, as
you probably know, excessive exposure to the sun's rays can prove really harmful. Too much sun gradually destroys fibres in the skin, causing premature ageing. A more serious effect is the potential danger of skin cancer.
4 ways the sun affects your skin
- When skin is exposed to sunlight, it tries to protect itself by producing more melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour). A tan is therefore a sign that your skin has been damaged.
- Sunburn occurs when you stay out in the sun too long without adequate protection. Skin becomes red, sore and itchy and, in severe cases, blisters and causes pain. After a few days, the sunburned skin peels away, but the damage remains.
- Exposure to the sun can lead to premature ageing of your skin. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply, resulting in irreversible damage, such as wrinkles, leathery skin, age spots and sagginess.
- Age spots - also known as hyper-pigmentation are large, dark freckles that mainly appear on the arms, neck, face, hands and upper chest.
Your four-step guide to fun in the sun
- Understand your sunscreen:
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) - The SPF indicates how good a product is at protecting against sunburn. It is recommended that you use a minimum of SPF15.
UVA star rating - UVA rays are responsible for accelerated ageing of the skin and are present all year around. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and, ultimately, skin cancer, and are strongest during summer months The UVA star rating system has five levels – one star being the lowest, and five the highest. Each level reflects the product's ability to absorb UVA light compared with UVB.
Water resistant sunscreen - If you love swimming, look out for specially formulated water resistant products. You will still need to re-apply this sunscreen after swimming as per the manufacturers instructions but it should be on a less frequent basis than those that are not water resistant.
- Use the right SPF for your skin type:
Choosing the right SPF for you depends on your skin type, how pale you are and whereabouts you are going. Your skin type dictates how your skin reacts to the sun. The chart below should help you to identify which of the six skin types best describes your own colouring.
- Get into the habit of using sunscreen:
The extent to which you protect yourself depends in part on what you will be doing on any given day. If you are going to be outside all day, or in the water, it is essential to take sensible precautions:
- Follow the golden rules of sun safety:
• Cover up during the hottest parts of the day with long-sleeved clothing, hats and sunglasses
• Ensure you have the correct sun protection factor for you and for your family (see SPF chart above)
• Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you go outside. Repeat after 20-30 minutes in the sun and also after swimming or towelling dry
• Sun exposure dehydrates the skin – so it is important to apply an after-sun product to replenish the skin
• Use extra protection for sensitive areas like noses, ears and lips
• Get out of the sun as soon as you feel your skin beginning to burn
Summer Health: Sun Care infographic
Alphega Pharmacy: Mole Scanning Service
| More info: Protecting Your Skin in Summer |