Top tips to stay safe in the sun

This week is Sun Awareness Week which aims to highlight the dangers of over-exposure to the sun and help people enjoy the sun safely. In this blog, Editorial Assistant Helen gives some tips on how to take care when the sun is out. 

Last month, the UK saw temperatures of up to 29.1°C and the hottest day in April since 1949. The sun was out in full force and lots of people headed outside to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather.

Sunshine is important. It is a source of vitamin D which helps keep our bones and teeth healthy. In the UK, exposing your skin to sunlight daily between 11am and 3pm from May until September increases vitamin D levels. It is recommended that adults get 10 minutes of sun on bare skin (without sunscreen) once or twice a day, depending on their skin type.

However, according to a survey by the British Association of Dermatologists, more than one in three Brits have been sunburnt in the last year while in the UK. You should protect your skin in the sun and take care not to burn, as research shows that sun damage greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancers.

Here are some tips to help you protect your skin when the sun is out.

Avoid the sun
To protect your skin from sun damage, you should try and stay out of strong sunlight during the hottest part of the day. This is usually between 11am and 3pm. If you are outside, you should try and stay in the shade as much as possible and use sun cream and clothing to protect you.

The Met Office website gives daily UV information for the UK. But in countries closer to the equator or at higher altitudes, your sunburn risk will be higher. When the UV rating is 3 or above, it is possible to become sunburned, so you should take precautions.

Cover up
Clothing made of cotton or natural fibres, with a tight weave gives more protection against the sun. Long sleeves and trousers or a long skirt can protect your arms and legs. You can also wear a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face, neck and ears.

Wear sun cream
Wearing sun cream isn’t an alternative to staying out of the sun but it can give you extra protection, especially on areas that are difficult to cover. It is also good to wear sun cream even on days when the sun isn’t strong, if you are going to be outside for long periods of time. You should wear a high factor sun cream and make sure it is applied properly.

Follow these tips to make sure that you are using sun cream correctly:

  • Choose a sun cream that has 4 or 5 stars, alongside an SPF of at least 30. A sun cream that provides the recommended protection against UVA will be marked with the UVA logo. The UVA and 5 stars logo look like this:  

This image shows the UVA logos. The first is a black circle that says UVA inside. The second is a blue circle that says UVA inside and has 5 stars.

  • Apply sun cream before going out in the sun (around 30 minutes before you leave the house) and then shortly after. This is to make sure that the sun cream is fully absorbed before skin is exposed to sun. This reduces the chance of missing any areas of skin. 
  • Make sure you apply sun cream generously. The average sized adult should use a minimum of 6 to 8 teaspoons of sun cream, each time they apply it.
  • Re-apply the sun cream every 2 hours, or after swimming, towel drying or sweating.
  • Don’t rely on make-up and moisturisers that contain SPF protection. These can offer some protection against the sun, but shouldn’t be relied on or used as a replacement to sun cream, as they are often applied thinly and can be rubbed off easily.

If you’ve had cancer treatment
Some cancer treatments can make your skin very sensitive. If you’ve had chemotherapy or targeted therapies, you may sunburn more easily and you’ll need to be a bit more careful.

If you’ve had radiotherapy , the skin in the treated area may sunburn faster. Your cancer doctor can give advice about any treatments you’re having.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

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