We are still sizzling under a heatwave after one of the hottest and driest Junes on record. While the scorching temperatures are probably good news for your social life, constant exposure to the sun’s harmful rays doesn’t bode well for your body.
Sunlight is the main source of ultraviolet radiation, and overexposure to its rays can lead to various skin cancers such as melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, while also causing skin to redden and burn.
While it’s important to bear in mind that we all need some sun exposure for the production of vitamin D, and that engaging in physical activity outdoors is healthy, too much sun can be really harmful over a long period of time.
So if you’re currently looking more sunburnt than Dr Alex from Love Island, and you’re wondering how to navigate the final stretch of the sunny weather safely, here’s some advice for staying sun safe.
How long can you safely stay in the sun?
There’s no set ‘safe’ time that any one person can stay in the sun – this is because there are a number of genetic factors that can influence your risk. The darker and thicker your skin, the longer the sun exposure needed for radiation damage to occur. Fair people with freckles may experience sun damage very quickly – sometimes in less than 10 minutes.
How long it takes for your skin to go red or burn varies from person to person, but here is a handy online tool where you can find out your skin type, to see when you’re most at risk of burning.
The sun is strongest between is 10am and 4pm, so if you’re out and about during these hours, it’s best to avoid direct exposure to the sun as much as possible. Sit in the shade or cover up with long sleeves and a hat.
For extended, intense exposure during the heatwave – such as a sunny day in the park – you should use a broad-spectrum (with protection from both UVA and UVB rays), water-resistant sun cream with an SPF of 30 or higher.
SPF 30 filters out up to 97% of the sun’s UV radiation, while SPF 50 filters out up to 98%.
How often should you top up your sun tan lotion?
You should apply sun cream 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin.
You should always apply a sun cream before heading out into the sunlight and
once you’ve slathered on your first layer, make sure you pack your lotion in your bag – reapplication of sun cream is just as important as putting it on in the first place.
Experts advise that you reapply the same amount every two hours. If you spend time in water, make sure to add a new layer each time you get out, as your protection will have been washed away.
You should also apply a second coat of sun cream on your nose, hands, ears, and the tops of your feet, as these are all areas that burn easily.
Finally, if you’ve been holding on to your sun cream for a number of summers, make sure you check the expiration date, as the active ingredients in sunscreen can deteriorate over time.
What other tips can help you to stay safe?
When it’s blazing sun cream outside, it’s tempting to apply the sun cream and sit on a sun lounger for the rest of the day, but your SPF shouldn’t be your only form of protection.
Sun cream can’t block out 100% of the sun’s UVB rays, so it’s important to take extra preventative measures. When the sun is at its hottest, avoid direct exposure by sitting in the shade, wearing a hat and covering your arms and legs with sleeves and longer trousers.
As well as damaging the skin, UV exposure also contributes to the development of certain types of cataracts, growths on the eye and possibly macular degeneration. The best way to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays is to always wear good quality sunglasses when you are outdoors. Look for a pair that block 100% of UV rays and that also absorb most HEV rays – your optician can help you choose an appropriate pair.
The lips are a really easy area to neglect when it comes to sun protection, but the reality is that no body part is safe from sun damage. A balm specifically formulated with SPF (look for factor 20 or higher) is a must-have for both men and women during the summer months.
Can you still enjoy a beer on a hot day?
When the weather is hotter, you’ve probably noticed that you sweat more – which leads you to greater risk of dehydration. Drinking enough water to replace what you lose through perspiration is the best way to counteract this. Alcohol, on the other hand, dehydrates you further.
Plenty of us can’t avoid the lure of a frothy pint in a pub garden on a sunny day, but if you do choose to drink alcohol outdoors, make sure avoid the direct sunlight and drink extra water frequently – a ‘pint for a pint’ should be your golden rule.