If you’re anything like me, then as soon as that big yellow orb appears from behind the clouds in the Spring, you’ll practically be living outside. From dawn until dusk, I’m finding ways to be out there. (And failing, as sadly I’m still to find a decent way of using a laptop outdoors…)
All that vitamin D and feelgood factor I get from the sun, it must be doing wonders. But, sun worshipper as I am, I still need to think about UV protection and here’s why…
Why We Need to Use Sun Protection
UVB rays from the sun are the rays that cause the skin to burn. As much as a light sun tan might feel good, sunburn is a different beast. Sunburn isn’t necessarily sore or itchy skin and blistering. If you have fair skin and it’s become red because of being out in the sun, then this is also sunburn. If you have darker skin and it feels irritated or itchy, this is also sunburn.
Too many UVB rays and therefore sunburn, and the DNA in skin cells can become damaged. The body can deal with this damage for the most part. That feeling of hot and burning skin after you’ve come out of the sun, is the natural repair mechanism of the skin at work.
But some damaged DNA can be left behind, and this is the dangerous part. If you continually burn your skin and this damaged DNA builds up, the normal mechanism of growth and repair of cells can start to go out of control. It’s this uncontrollable growth of cells that leads to skin cancers, called melanomas. In fact, getting sunburnt just once every other year could triple your risk of developing a melanoma later in life.
And it isn’t just UVB rays we need to consider. If skin cancer is far from your mind (it shouldn’t be, but if it is…), what about wrinkles?? UVA rays are the sun rays that cause ageing. These rays are capable of penetrating deep into the layers of the skin, unlike UVB rays which cause sun damage to the upper layers. UVA rays can contribute to deep wrinkles that could make you appear older than you are. And that might be reason enough to cover up…
Protecting Yourself from the Sun
UV protection isn’t just about applying sun cream once and then forgetting about it. If you’re exposed to the sun for longer than a few minutes at a time (especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm), then all-round sun protection should be a priority.
- Apply sunscreen, at least a factor 15, preferably higher, on all exposed parts, including the face. As a guide, two tablespoons of sun cream should be enough to adequately cover an entire average sized adult body. Apply at least twice a day, more if you’re sunbathing and/or swimming.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat
- Wear sunglasses with a CE mark
- Wear loose, cool clothing to cover your skin if you can’t apply sunscreen
- Stay well hydrated, especially if you’re drinking alcohol