Sun Awareness Week – stay safe in the sun

Prevent sun burn and skin damage this summer with this need-to-know guide

Get sun savvy and learn more about staying protected from the sun’s damaging rays with this expert advice from LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist, Anshu Bhimbat.

How much sun cream should I apply?

If you don’t use enough sun lotion you can be at risk of burning, but equally, applying the sunscreen to the same area twice won’t double the protection. Make sure you use an amount equivalent to the size of a golf ball (or six teaspoons) to cover your entire body. A 200ml bottle has enough for around six adult applications so try and use accordingly.

Which sun protection is right for me?

With so many products on the shelf, picking the right one can feel a bit overwhelming. We all know about the potential damage that can be caused by not protecting your skin adequately, but different skin types have different needs. LloydsPharmacy is here to help you pick the right sun protection for your needs.

  • Very pale skin, freckles, blue eyes and blonde or red hair – requires SPF 50+
  • Fair skin, blonde or red hair and blue, green or hazel eyes – requires SPF 50 or SPF 30
  • Fair to medium skin and skin that tans quite well but sometimes burns – SPF 30
  • Olive or Mediterranean skin, brown or dark brown hair and brown eyes – SPF 30 or minimum SPF 15
  • Naturally brown skin, brown or dark hair and brown eyes – SPF 15
  • Very dark skin, black hair, dark brown eyes – SPF 15

How should I protect my child from sunburn?

Children’s skin is more delicate and sensitive to UV damage, so try to prevent sunburn. To protect your child’s skin, we recommend using an SPF 50 or more, and never below SPF 30. If your little one is in and out of the pool, make sure to reapply after each towel dry, while many sun lotions are water resistant they are not friction resistant and can rub off when drying.

Why doesn’t lying under a sun umbrella protect your skin?

Although being under a sun umbrella is better for your skin than being directly in the sun, it won’t completely protect you from damaging UV rays. Whilst spending time in the shade will keep you out of reach of UV-A rays, UV-B rays can reach the skin indirectly so you may still be at risk. To avoid UBV-B rays, you need to find a shaded area where you are unable to see the sky so none of these harmful rays can penetrate, or opt for sun care with UV-B protection.

Anshu’s top tips for safe sun protection:

  • If you have a history of sun damage or skin cancer, always wear the highest sun protection factor and seek shade where possible.
  • Apply half an hour before going outside, and again shortly after to ensure the sunscreen is fully absorbed.
  • Use an amount equivalent to the size of a golf ball or 6 teaspoons to cover your entire body.
  • Reapply sun cream a minimum of every two hours.
  • Dehydrated skin is more prone to sun damage, so drink plenty of water.
  • Water-resistant sunscreens are not friction-resistant, so reapply after towel drying or sweating.

10 new myths that we hear a lot

But one fact to remember is to not let sunburn catch you out, because too much UV from the sun (or sunbeds) causes most cases of skin cancer. This might feel like old news, but rates of melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer) are still increasing.

By dodging these myths, we can all do our best to protect ourselves when the sun is strong.

Myth 1: ‘The sun is strongest when it’s hottest’

The heat of the sun doesn’t come from its skin-damaging UV rays. The UV rays are always strongest when the sun is highest in the sky, which in the UK summer is between 11am and 3pm (it can be different abroad). But the temperature varies more and tends to be highest slightly later. So if you want to get out and enjoy the nice weather later in the day when it’s still warm, the risk of burning won’t be as high.

Myth 2: ‘You can only burn in the middle of summer’

The sun can be strong enough to burn in the UK from the start of April to the end of September, even if it doesn’t feel that warm, or it’s a cloudy day. The UV Index can tell you how strong the sun is where you are today, you can find it on weather forecasts and the met office website. If the UV index is 3 or above think about protecting your skin. And take extra care if you get sunburnt easily or have a lighter skin tone.

Myth 3: ‘Sun damage always looks red and peely’

Not necessarily. If your skin’s gone red or pink in the sun, that’s sunburn, and it’s dangerous due to the damage the UV rays cause to DNA inside cells. If your skin goes pink but then a tan develops that still counts as having burnt.

But you can’t always see the damage. For people with naturally darker skin it might just feel irritated, tender or itchy rather than your skin changing colour.

Myth 4: ‘The odd sunburn doesn’t make much difference’

Getting sunburnt doesn’t mean you will definitely develop skin cancer. But sunburn just once every 2 years can triple the risk of melanoma. So if you have had sunburn in the past, it’s a good idea to think about what more you can do to protect your skin next time.

Myth 5: ‘Higher SPF sunscreens are lots better than lower SPF ones’

No sunscreen is 100% effective and as SPF increases, sunscreens provide less and less extra protection. SPF15 should be high enough wherever you are in the world, if it’s used properly. Higher SPFs don’t add much in terms of protection and might encourage you to spend longer in the sun inadvertently leading to more damage. Sunscreens with SPF lower than 15 aren’t recommended, and also make sure sunscreen has 4 stars or more, for UVA protection.

Myth 6: ‘A ‘base tan’ will protect me on holiday’

Some people think a pre-holiday tan or sunbed tans will protect them from burning, but a tan offers very little protection against the sun. Some studies have found that tans only offer protection equivalent to using factor 3 sunscreen. And tans from sunbeds could be as low as SPF 1.

Myth 7: ‘Putting sunscreen on once is enough’

It’s not. Even if it says once-a-day on the label, all sunscreens should be re-applied regularly. Some products rub, wash or sweat off more easily than others. But it’s also really easy to miss bits of your body so don’t be shy with it, put plenty on. The best way to use sunscreen is to think of it as the last line of defence for the parts of your body you can’t cover up with clothes.

Myth 8: ‘Sunbeds are a safer way to tan’

This myth is a persistent one. But the evidence is clear, sunbeds cause skin cancer and there’s no such thing as a safe tan. A tan is a sign that your body is trying to repair the damage caused by UV rays. That’s why we want to see more people embracing their natural skin colour through our Own Your Tone campaign.

Myth 9: ‘Sunscreen lasts forever’

We’ve probably all turned to that old bottle of sunscreen at the back of the cupboard that’s been there for an unknown number of years. But most sunscreens expire. Look out for a small open jar icon on the bottle with the number of months the product can be used after opening. And like most cosmetics, sunscreens should be stored in a cool place and not in direct sunlight.

Fear not though. You don’t need to worry about the cost of replacing expensive sunscreens. When it comes to protection, price doesn’t matter it’s the SPF and star rating that does.

Myth 10: ‘You can’t get sun damage through glass’

Indoors you’re mostly protected from sunburn, but some UV rays can get through glass. So if you spend lots of time driving or sitting in a conservatory when the sun is strong, then long-term you might be at risk of damage from UVA rays. If you’re stuck by the window, protect your skin with clothes and sunscreen with 4 or more stars.