The Independent Pharmacy

Suncare

    The vitamin D we get from sunlight is essential for keeping our bones, teeth and muscles healthy, but it’s also important for protecting our skin from the effects of harmful UV rays produced by the sun. Sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer, but prioritising suncare and applying the right sun protection reduces this risk. Remember, suncare isn’t just important when you’re on holiday; you can burn in the UK, too (even when it’s cloudy), so make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to protect yourself (and your children) while out in the sun.

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    Advice for Suncare

    Sun Protection Advice

    Whether you’re holidaying in a hot country or simply enjoying an afternoon in your garden, suncare shouldn’t be overlooked. Too many of us are underprepared when it comes to sun safety, but there is a number of steps we can take to ensure we can enjoy the sun without risking our health:

    • Spend time in the shade (especially between 11am and 3pm)
    • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays
    • Cover up with suitable clothing
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
    • Take extra care with children
    • Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above
    • Regularly reapply sunscreen, especially after contact with water

    Why is Sun Protection Important?

    Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun (and also sunbeds). By failing to protect our skin from these UV rays, we drastically increase our risk of developing skin cancer.

    If we apply the necessary sun protection (such as using a sun block with a sufficient SPF) we reduce our exposure to UV light and therefore our risk of getting skin cancer. Sun care is especially important for children, as they have more sensitive skin than adults.

    Which Sun Cream Should I Use?

    While sunscreen alone does not offer sufficient protection from the sun (spending time in shade and covering up with clothing are also important for sun care), it’s essential to apply a sunblock with a sufficiently high sun protection factor (SPF) and a sufficient UVA star rating:

    • The sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of the amount of protection against ultraviolet B radiation (UVB); you should apply a sunscreen with SPF 30 or above
    • The star rating measures the amount of protection against ultraviolet A radiation (UVA); you should apply a sunscreen with at least 4-star UV protection

    Sunscreens that offer both UVB and UVA protection (often referred to as broad-spectrum) are recommended, as these offer the most complete protection against UV radiation.

    You should also think about your skin type before deciding on which sun cream is right for you. There are plenty of sun creams that are tailored for sensitive skin, for example, while if you’re prone to dry skin, you should look for a sun block that contains hydrating ingredients.

    Before you apply sun cream, you should check it’s not past its sell-by date; most sun creams have a shelf life of around 2 to 3 years, after which they should be discarded and replaced.

    How Do I Apply Sun Cream?

    Sun block should be applied to all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears (and the head if you have thinning or no hair, but in this case a wide-brimmed hat is better). If you’re planning to be in the sun long enough to risk burning, you should apply sun lotion 30 minutes before you go out, and then again before you leave.

    If covering your entire body (for example, when wearing a swimming costume), you should apply at least 2 tablespoons of sun cream; for just the head, arms and neck (if you’re otherwise fully clothed) apply at least 2 teaspoons.

    Sun lotion should be applied regularly and liberally to ensure you maintain sufficient protection. You should reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and straight after you’ve been in water (even for water resistant sunblocks). If you sweat or your sun cream is rubbed off, it should be reapplied then, too.

    How Do I Protect My Children in the Sun?

    Since their skin is much more sensitive than that of adults, babies and children need extra protection when out in the sun. Damage to a child’s skin caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.

    It’s important to regularly apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of their skin (including the face, ears, feet and backs of hands) and use a sunscreen with a high SPF (we’d recommend factor 50 to be on the safe side), but you should also ensure they cover up with clothing and spend the hottest parts of the day under the shade.

    Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether.

    Sun Aftercare Advice

    What Should I Do If I Get Sunburned?

    If you notice your skin becoming red or feeling sore or hot to the touch, you should take the following steps:

    • Get out of the sun as soon as you can
    • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
    • Cool your skin with a cold shower or a damp towel
    • Apply aftersun cream or spray to the affected areas
    • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease any pain

    You should stay indoors or stick to shaded spots until your sunburn has fully healed. You should also avoid hot baths or showers, and try to wear loose clothing to avoid rubbing or irritation. Try not to scratch or remove peeling skin, and don’t pop blisters if you have any.

    If your skin is blistered or swollen, or your sunburn is accompanied by a high temperature, fever, headache, vomiting, dizziness, dehydration or extreme fatigue, you should contact your doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

    How Do I Care For My Skin After Being in the Sun?

    Even taking all the necessary precautions, it’s impossible to completely avoid UV rays (particularly UVA) if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun. And while there may be no visible signs of sunburn, that doesn’t mean your skin is free from UV damage. If your skin feels tight or warm to the touch (or skin features like freckles or sunspots become more visible) that’s a sure sign of overexposure to the sun.

    It’s important to take care of your skin all year round, but particularly so if it’s been exposed to the sun for long periods. Cooling down your skin with a damp towel or a cool shower will help to avoid dehydration, while using a moisturising after sun lotion or cream will help to rehydrate the skin and reduce any redness or inflammation.

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