Let’s face it – slathering ourselves in sunscreen is messy and a bit of a bore. Putting it on our children is even worse – they wriggle and squawk. So what do you do? Apply once a day sun cream, use SPF50 or put the kids in a a plastic boiler suit in a tent on the beach?
The answer is …use more than you think you should….and often.
Let me explain.
According to Cancer Research UK, skin cancer has quadrupled over the past 30 years. Researchers say it’s due to the rise of package holidays; fair skinned people indulging in a sun binge once ot twice a year. Much like binge drinking. On one hand sunshine is the best way for our bodies to produce vitamin D which we need for strong bones and to boost our immune system to protect us against disease. On the other hand, we’re told to cover up and wear SPF 50 to prevent skin cancer.
The other major reason for the rise in skin cancers is the incorrect use of sun cream. People are simply not using enough of it. We need a certain level of UV light for our bodies to produce vitamin D – essential for calcium absorption. Exposing the skin, even just your arms, for 20- 30 minutes a day can help with this. After this, we really need protection.
5 things to look for in an effective sun cream
- an SPF of 15-20
- gives UVA and UVB protection
- contains vitamins C and E, both strong anti-oxidants that absorb UV energy
- contaisn titanium oxide and/or zinc oxide. Both are sun refelctors
- cream rather than a spray and never ever use the once a day stuff
The most important thing to do with sun cream
Use more of it! Most people only use about one third of the right amount. They apply it too thinly and don’t re-apply oftern enough. SPF 15-20 isperfectly adequate for children and fair skinned people if it’s used correctly. You need a thick layer and it needs to be re-applied every 2 hours. On a beach holiday, on average, a woman should use a small bottle of sun cream each day – about 100 g. A man will need about 115 g a day.
If you don’t use enough SPF 15-20, you are only protecting yourself to the equivalant of SPF3-4. If you’re not going to use enough, swap to SPF50. Then if you’re not using enough of that either, at least you’re getting the equivalent of SPF15-20. Bear in mind that SPF50 contains a lot more chemicals.
6 more things you can do to protect your skin
- use a vitamin A based moisturiser such as Environ skincare. Vitamin A is a super vitamin and the only one that repairs DNA in damaged skin cells
- take a vitamin A supplement but check first for contraindications especially if you’re pregnant or you’ve taken Roaccutane
- use mineral make-up containing an SPF. The minerals also act as sun reflectors
- eat food rich in vitamin A and anti-oxidants such as tomatoes, brocoli, melon, carrots, watercress, apricots, magoes, kiwi, strawberries, oranges and liver
- wear a hat and light coloured clothing. No need for all in one suits and sun tents for children
- no facials or chemical peels just before holiday. Have them when you come back.Remember the sun can also change your hair colour and your nail varnish colour while you’re away.
UV light explained
Ultra violet light is divided into A, B and C rays.
- UVA – ‘A’ is for ageing. These rays penetrate to the bottom layer of skin. You can’t see the damage they do as it builds over time destroying healthy cells. UVA causes you to tan but you tan to protect your skin so a tan is actually a scar!
- UVB ‘B’ is for burn. This causes visible damage in sunburn but doesn’t penetrate the lower layers of skin. UVB is the major cause of skin cancer but it’s also essential for vitamin D manufacture which protects us from other cancers and diseases such as MS
- UVC rays only penetrate through holes in the ozone so you should only worry about this one if you’re climbing very high mountains in South America.