Sun Safety

Everyone loves the summer because you can get out and enjoy yourself in the warm sun. We can’t wait to be able to relax in the sun, get a tan and make the most of the good weather, as we don’t get much of it!

However, you need to make sure you protect yourself properly. Having a tan looks good but it isn’t healthy. If you think about it, it’s the sun’s rays burning your skin.

If you are going to go out in the sun you need to be sensible. Young people are most at risk when they are out in the sun and more vulnerable to sunburn.

Exposure to sunlight can age the skin and cause brown blotches, dryness and wrinkles. More importantly, UV radiation from the sun can promote the development of skin cancer.

Sunburn is more likely to affect you if you are fair skinned and red headed. This is because you have less skin pigment in the skin. Pigment in the skin helps protect the skin against UV light. But remember – anyone can get burnt if they don’t take necessary precautions.

How to prevent sunburn and protect yourself in the sun:

  • Wear lots of sun cream (at least Sun Protection Factor 15) – you can never put too much on; Try and apply it at least 30 minutes before you go out in the sun and reapply every two hours.
  • Stay in the shade between 11am- 3pm (as this is when the sun is at its hottest) or wear light clothing.
  • Always reapply the sun cream if you go swimming or if you sweat a lot.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear UV sunglasses and lip balm to protect your eyes and lips.

What to do if you get sunburn:

  • Firstly, sponge your skin with cool water and stay in the shade for 3 – 4 days
  • Use after sun lotion that contains either calamine or aloe vera, to help cool the skin and sooth the pain.
  • Take paracetamol if you are in pain and make sure you don’t pop any blisters – these are protecting the skin from infection.
  • If the burn does cover a large area, go and see a doctor. Always try to make sure that you drink lots of water to ensure that you don’t dehydrate.

Don’t forget that sunbeds have the same UV rays as the sun and these can have the same effects. See our ‘Sunbeds – are they safe?’ article for more information.

The key thing to remember is keep your skin safe. Follow the simple steps to get lightly tanned without getting burnt. You’ll be glad of it in later life!

The dangers of ‘binge tanning’

A worrying new trend among young people is to ‘binge tan’ by spending more than five hours a day in the sun on holiday and wearing only a low factor sun cream or none at all.

This hugely increases your risk of life-threatening skin cancer, as well as causing premature ageing to the skin.

Fake tans and gradual tanning moisturisers are a safe way to get a healthy glow without risking your life and causing permanent damage to your skin.

Who can help?

Sunsmart is the UK’s national skin cancer prevention campaign which is run by Cancer Reaseach UK. The site has lots of information about how to stay safe when you’re out in the sun. www.cancerresearchuk.org/sunsmart/

NHS Choices provides further information on sunburn.  http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sunburn/Pages/Introduction.aspx