Whether you’re off on holidayor staying in the UK, there’s one thing that remains important during the summer: proper sun protection.
Jodie Rawl details the differences between UVA and UVB and dispels some very worrying myths…
The sun’s out, beer gardens are rammed and the beach looks like a dodgy cartoon postcard of blistered bodies from the 70s. Whether you’re looking to avoid the red sheen and peeling complexion of a weary day-tripping Londoner, or make sure your tan is more golden goddess than clueless lobster, you’ll need to get to grips with the basics of sun protection first.
Know your UVA from your UVB? We thought not. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to turn you into a sun-savvy individual this summer.
UVA and UVB rays
UVA rays deeply penetrate the skin and are responsible for its premature ageing. Effects include wrinkles, brown pigmentation and degeneration of collogen and elastin in the skin.
Not even clouds and windows block these little blighters and the level of UVA is the same all year round. Experts suggest applying sun cream daily.
SPOT IT ON THE BOTTLE
Find the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by your sunscreen marked by a zero to five star rating – 4 or 5 stars being the recommended level of protection by The British Association of Dermatologists.
UVA damage makes the effects of UVB rays worse.
These rays penetrate the top level of skin, and are responsible for making you burn and can cause skin cancer.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is an indication of protection against UVB rays and actually refers to the amount of time before you start to burn. For example, if you normally burn in 10 minutes without sun cream (like many pale skinned people), an SPF 15 should protect you for 15 times longer.
No sun cream blocks 100% of UVB rays, but as a general guide, SPF 15 filters out roughly 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%. Probably a good call to bin that bottle of SPF4.
THE FACTS ABOUT SUN CREAM
Make-up alone does not protect the face from UV rays
Sun cream’s performance reduces over time, leaving you less protected. Always check the expiration date
A double application of an SPF 15 product is not the equivalent of using an SPF 30
No sun cream blocks 100% of UV rays – a tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself
Cheaper products aren’t necessarily less effective – always stick to a high SPF and UVA rating
Sun cream doesn’t prevent the body absorbing vitamin D, 20-30 minutes of sun exposure a day is all the body needs.
The British Association of Dermatologists advises: “Sunscreen should be that vital last line of defence. What we recommend is using good protective clothing, such as a t-shirt, sunglasses and a hat.
“You should also make good use of shade between 11am and 3pm, as that’s when the sun is at its strongest.”
Using a bare minimum of six full teaspoons for each full body application is advised. People are urged to reapply regularly, especially after swimming, even with extended wear sun creams.
“For those with skin of colour, particularly the darkest skin types, sun protection is less of an issue when in the UK and getting plenty of vitamin D should be a priority.”
WE ASKED DR ANJALI MAHTO, CONSULTANT DERMATOLOGIST & BRITISH SKIN FOUNDATION SPOKESPERSON, ABOUT THE BIGGEST MYTHS SHE’S HEARD ON THE JOB…
“I can’t get sun damage on a cloudy summer day.”
Even if you can’t see any blue sky, a significant amount of UV rays can still get through the clouds, so it’s best to apply sunscreen if you’re out and about during the summer.
“I can’t get sunburnt in the UK; the UV rays aren’t strong enough.”
Wrong! Always protect your skin even in the UK.
“My skin is only damaged if it turns red.”
Sunburn and skin peeling is the extreme end of skin damage from UV rays. When the skin ‘tans’ this is damaging your skin and putting you at risk of skin cancer in the future.
“My sunscreen says it’s water resistant, so I don’t need to reapply regularly.”
Despite what the packaging promises, swimming, sweating, rubbing, or towelling down means you will end up removing the sunscreen from your body. Always reapply after sporting activity or at least every two hours.
“I can’t get sunburnt through windows.”
Wrong! UVA radiation can penetrate glass. This can be a car window, or even your windows at home. Be sure to protect your skin if you’re on long car journeys or spend a lot of time sat by sunny windows. “SPF25 is half the SPF protection of SPF50”.
SPF50 does not offer twice the protection as SPF25 even though it offers a higher level of protection, so don’t be fooled!