Even though we’re constantly told to wear sunscreen, how many of us actually do so on a regular basis? In this article we explore the different types of sunscreen you can get and how you choose the right factor for your skin.
Why wear sunscreen?
Apart from the fact that sunburn is painful, it’s well documented that exposure to too much sun can cause serious long-term damage to the skin, including skin cancer. Sunscreen helps to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays and prevents burning.
Who should wear sunscreen?
Everyone’s skin is susceptible to sun damage but Cancer Research says you’re particularly at risk if you have:
- Fair skin that burns easily in strong sun
- Lots of moles or freckles
- Red or fair hair
- Light-coloured eyes
- A personal or family history of skin cancer
- A history of sunburn
When to wear sunscreen
The important thing to remember is that the sun can still be harmful, even if it’s not a particularly sunny day. Throughout the summer months it’s a good idea to get into the habit of wearing a sunscreen whatever the weather as the sun’s rays can be surprisingly strong, even if there’s a cover of cloud.
What sunscreen to wear?
If you wear a facial moisturiser, choose one which has built-in sun protection and get into the habit of applying it every morning. This is the easy way to ensure you wear sunscreen on your face every day.
The British Association of Dermatologists recommends investing in a sunscreen with a minimum factor of 30 and applying plenty of it to all exposed areas of skin throughout the day. You should re-apply every two hours and certainly after swimming.
Tips for using sunscreen properly
Cancer Research says that no sunscreen will give the right protection unless it’s applied properly. The organisation says:
- Make sure you put enough sunscreen on – people often apply much less than they need to, to get the full protection. When your risk of burning is high, ensure that all exposed skin is thoroughly covered in sunscreen. As a guide this means: around 2 teaspoonfuls of sunscreen if you’re just covering your head, arms and neck or around 2 tablespoonfuls if you’re covering your entire body, while wearing a swimming costume.
- Reapply sunscreen regularly – it is easily rubbed, sweated or washed off. And reapplying helps avoid missing bits of skin.
- Use sunscreen together with shade and clothing to avoiding getting caught out by sunburn.
- Don’t be tempted to spend longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen.
- Apply to clean, dry skin.
- Even sunscreens that claim to be ‘water resistant’ or ‘waterproof’ should be reapplied after going in the water, especially if you have towelled dry.
- Don’t store sunscreens in very hot places as extreme heat can ruin their protective chemicals.
- Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your sunscreen. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years, but ensure your sunscreen has not expired before you use it.
The British Association of Dermatologists also recommends that you stay out of the sun when it’s at its peak between 11am and 3pm. Find a cool, shady place to sit.
If it’s not possible to stay out of the sun, try to keep your skin covered and make sure you wear a sun hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes.
For more information and advice please visit the Cancer Research website and the British Association of Dermatology’s Be Sun Aware website.
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