Getting a painful sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of the most serious type of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and the number of people who develop it is increasing. It is linked to too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation – the kind found in sunlight and sunbeds. These cancers could be prevented if we protect ourselves from overexposure to these rays.
When you know your skin type you can work out your burn risk and when to protect yourself. Determine you skin type and burn risk by clicking on the chart below:
When there's no shade around, the best way to protect your skin from the sun is with loose clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and good quality sunglasses.
The more skin that is covered by your clothing, the better the protection.
Hats are great for protecting the face, eyes and head. Choose a wide-brimmed hat for the most protection. When choosing sunglasses look for one of the following:
|| the 'CE Mark' and British Standard (BS EN 1836:1997) |
|| a UV 400 label |
|| a statement that the sunglasses offer 100% UV protection |
Also, make sure that the glasses offer protection at the side of the eye.
Sunscreens are useful for protecting our skin from the sun's rays. However, they will not protect us completely from sun damage on their own. This is why we recommend using sunscreens together with shade or clothing to avoiding burning in the sun.
We recommend buying sunscreens with:
|| a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 |
||“broad-spectrum” sunscreens with a star rating of four stars or more |
The SPF is a measure of a sunscreen’s protection against the UVB rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. The higher the factor the more protection you get from burning.
No sunscreen - no matter how high the factor - can offer 100 per cent protection. And it will only provide the right amount of protection if it is applied generously and regularly.
Broad spectrum sunscreens block out UVA rays as well as UVB - these rays can also lead to skin cancer. In the UK we measure UVA protection with the 'star' system. Sunscreens can have anywhere from 0 to 5 stars. The number of stars is not an absolute measure and depends on how much UVB protection the sunscreen offers. For example, an SPF 25 with 3 stars may screen out more UVA overall than an SPF 10 with 4 stars.
When buying sunscreen, also look out for brands that:
||are water resistant – they are less likely to be washed or sweated off |
||have not gone past their expiry date – most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years |
Try to apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply soon after to ensure that you get even coverage. Think of it as painting a wall – the first coat fills in any rough bits and the second gives an even layer.
Reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if washed, rubbed or sweated off. Even sunscreens that claim to be ‘waterproof’ should be reapplied after going in the water. We also recommend reapplying ‘once a day’ sunscreens, just in case you missed a bit.
Use generous amounts. If you do not apply enough sunscreen, you are getting much less protection than is advertised on the bottle. And you cannot compensate for light applications by using higher factors.
Never use sunscreen to spend longer in the sun - this will put you at risk of sun damage that could lead to skin cancer.
Apply to clean, dry skin and rub in only lightly.
Do not store sunscreens in very hot places as extreme heat can ruin their protective chemicals.
Take extra care with children
Young skin is delicate and very easily damaged by the sun. Al children, no matter wheather they tan easily or not, should be protected from the sun. Children with fair or red hair, pale eyes or freckles are at most risk. Keep babies under six monts out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
For more tips on keeping children safe in the sun click here