Thanks to our unpredictable British weather it’s very easy to overlook the need for sunblock, says Dr. Harryono.Judodihardjo, medical director of the Cellite Clinic in Cardiff
How often have we headed out of the house in the rain, only to find the gloom soon lifts, and we are bathed in brilliant sunshine?
Although our sunshine isn’t as powerful as that in countries such as Spain or Australia, it’s still possible to burn very quickly. Cloudy days are treacherous too, as we are often oblivious to the fact that strong ultraviolet light is still filtering through – until it’s too late, and our skin is burnt.
My advice is to wear a high protection factor sunscreen every day (a minimum of SPF 15 but preferably higher) – put it on every morning so that it becomes as automatic as cleaning your teeth.
And take a tube of sunblock with you wherever you go – tucked away in a handbag or rucksack.
Those who exercise outside need to take particular care as a heavy sweat can cause sunscreen to slide away.
Not only is your skin vulnerable to the damaging rays of the sun, you may also exacerbate the problem by staying outside longer because you imagine that you are still protected.
If at all possible – during a water break while you are jogging, or a pause when you change sides during a game of tennis – take a couple of minutes to re-apply your sunscreen.
Stopping to apply another layer of sunscreen when you are exercising isn’t always practical, I appreciate, so add to your protection at the outset by wearing a hat with a decent sized peak, and sunglasses.
Arranging to exercise early in the morning or in the evening also means that you avoid the sun’s most damaging period – from 11am-3pm.
Outdoor swimmers need to take special care too, as sunscreen tends to wash away in water. Even if sunscreens have survived a dip, they won’t cope with a vigourous post-swim towelling off! So, after going in the water, don’t then lie in the sun and imagine you are protected.
Block up before and after a dip, and remember, the coolness of the water will make you forget about the power of the sun, and you could be burning without realising it.
Beware also, of any product that claims to be waterproof, as nothing is. Even a water resistant product will only remain so for a limited period of time.
People with fair skin need to be particularly careful when exercising outdoors, as this skin type is the most prone to damage from ultraviolet light.
Why use sunscreen?
Malignant melanoma, the potentially life-threatening form of skin cancer, is increasing in the UK at an alarming rate. Tragically, someone dies of skin cancer every four hours.
Skin cancer isn’t the only problem caused by the sun’s rays, as UV light is the prime culprit in causing premature ageing. Most of the visible signs of the skin’s ageing can be attributed to the sun – fine lines, wrinkles, freckles, sunspots, sagging.
Despite the best efforts of public health campaigners to promote the notion of pale is beautiful, the perception that a tan equates with good health and vitality still persists.
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as a tan indicates that your skin has been damaged.
Thankfully, parents seem to be taking sun safety messages seriously when it comes to protecting young children, but it’s now time for adults to apply the same rules to themselves, and apply sunscreen every day, however gloomy the weather might appear.
Protect your skin
- Try and avoid exposure during the hottest part of the day 11am-3pm.
- Don’t be fooled by the temperature – it’s still possible to burn on a cool, cloudy day.
- Be aware on breezy days – the wind chill may cool the body down, but it will not diminish the ferocity of the sun’s rays.
- Apply sunblock with a minimum SPF15 at least half an hour before going out, then reapply just before leaving the house to ensure that the skin is adequately covered. Reapply frequently throughout the day if you are staying outdoors.
- There’s no such thing as a waterproof sunblock – after swimming or sweating it will need to be reapplied.
- Don’t be tempted to stay longer in the sun because you are wearing sunblock.
- Children are particularly vulnerable – ensure that they don’t burn by keeping them adequately clothed – long sleeved shirts, trousers, a hat and sunglasses – and limit their exposure to strong sunshine.
- Beach shelters are excellent for providing shade, but check the manufacturer’s information – some are too flimsy to filter out UV light adequately.
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