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May 2024

Skin, Sunscreen and Shade: The Importance of Sun Safety

Admittedly, writing a blog about the importance of sun safety at a time where we’ve seen so little of the sun shining until now does seem a tad ironic, however, May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month in the UK and, additionally, May 1st to May 7th is Sun Awareness Week too! As we - very slowly - start to embrace our sun’s light, warmth and vital Vitamin D, we must also be considerate to it’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays which have the ability to cause multiple issues to our skin and overall health if not respected. A primary focus during Sun Awareness Week is educating people about the significance of sun protection which we’ll be exploring in today’s blog!

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Slathering on Sunscreen ☀️

Sunburn can occur at any time, whether you’re holidaying in the tropics or simply basking in the sun closer to home. Sunburn can happen in as little as a few minutes, as you expose your skin to the sun’s ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays, which penetrate deep into the skin’s tissue, leading to redness, an intense burning sensation and pain and inflammation.

Wearing sunscreen and sunblocks are one of the quickest and easiest ways to protect both the appearance and health of your skin. This is because suncream’s contain active ingredients which have the ability to coat your skins surface, filtering and reducing the strength of UV radiation, along with sensory enhancers which improve the smell and feel of the formulation, such as moisturisers and emollients, promoting the idea of improved wellness and as a reminder that you’ve taken action towards sun exposure.

Regardless of whether you are in direct sunlight or seeking shade, it is always important to use the highest SPF suncream available, with SPF50 and now SPF50+ providing better protection against damaging UVA and UVB radiation. It’s also important to note that all skin types can experience sunburn and no one person is immune.

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Seeking Shade 🌳

The sun has an alluring quality to it, and we often find ourselves happily basking - and baking - in it’s warm glow as it increases our levels of dopamine, our brain’s ‘happy’ molecule. However, suncream is simply not effective enough when it comes to skin protection and taking steps to seek shade at regular intervals should also be practiced.

Any exposure to sunlight can lead to harm, and this is particularly true between the hours of 11:00am and 3:00pm. This is because of the UK’s position in the world, where we’re marginally closer to the sun at this time of day, leading to increased risk of burning. Seeking shade is an appropriate measure when protecting your skin, but it should go much further than simply sitting underneath an umbrella. UV rays have the ability to reflect on certain surfaces, such as the sea, sand, and even concrete. This means that although you might feel as though your body is adequately shaded by a canopy, there is still a possibility your skin could be burnt.

In addition to this, consider your position when in the shade too, an area with more vegetation, such as gardens with trees, climbing plants or other large foliage can provide naturally shaded and deflective spots as well as adding a cooling effect which can leave you feeling more comfortable in dry heat.

Additionally, measures to cover the skin whilst in shade helps to maximise protection. Wear a lightweight light-coloured t-shirt which will help to reflect the sun’s rays from your skin and hide it from UV radiation. Wear a large hat to protect parts of your face, such as the forehead, cheeks and nose, which are much more susceptible to burning, as well as a pair of quality sunglasses to protect your retina’s from damage. It is particularly important to wear sunglasses that have a ‘CE’ or ‘British Standard’ mark which carry a UV 400 label, this is because they offer full UV protection.

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Hydration 💧

Skin protection is not just simply lathering up and seeking a cool, dark spot. Hydration also plays a large - and often underestimated - role in the protection of your skin, this is because the skin, our largest organ, is made up of an incredible 64% of water! This water content is important because it helps our skin to appear smooth and elastic, however sun exposure can drastically reduce this water content and therefore must be constantly replenished.

Dehydrated skin can lead to an increased appearance of ageing and contribute to further skin damage and the risk of melanoma’s developing. However, there are a number of ways you can tackle dehydration. As we mentioned before, the majority of sunscreens will include a moisturising ingredient which can create a barrier from the sun and provide a cooling effect to the surface of your skin. Staying physically hydrated will also ensure your body is able to replenish the water it's lost when you're sat in the sun through sweating. Hydration helps regulate body temperature and support brain function, which is incredibly important. Remember, it's important to always drink in the sun, a sensible effort is to consume a cup of water every 15-20 minutes!

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Know The Signs:

What are UV rays?

UV rays are forms of radiation, which the sun emits. These UV rays are classified in a range of severity from 1 to 11, with 1 being the lowest risk and 11 being the most extreme. The UK’s latitude means we only experience UV rays between 1 and 8, with the latter being prominent throughout summer, however, it’s important to note that pale coloured skin types can burn in UV radiation as low as 1, whilst most people will experience some skin damage at UV 2 after a couple of hours of exposure. Additionally, UV rays can penetrate through thick clouds, so it’s always important to take note of UV rays regardless of whether the sun is shining.

What are signs of skin damage?

Because human skin so easily reacts to the sun, it is possible to spot signs of skin damage quickly and effectively. Changes to pigmentation such as age spots, liver spots or freckles are an indication of damage, along with a loss of skin tone, a rough and uneven texture and spider-like veins. More serious issues, such as melanoma (skin cancer) may appear as skin colour that is uneven with spots that are black and brown or small lumps or bumps, which can be as small as a freckle or as big as the size of a pea.

What should I do if I’m concerned?

If you notice any changes to your skin after exposure to direct sunlight, always call your local GP with a clear description of the noticeable changes.

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We hope you've found today's blog to be both informative and educational and have learnt something about protecting your skin in the sun! A great way to remember what we've explored is to consider the 5 S's of sun safety: Slip on clothing that covers skin, Slop on sunscreen, Slap on a wide-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on sunglasses.