29 June 2018
Summer is here and it's safe to say a little sun exposure makes us all feel better. It also helps the skin generate vitamin D, which is essential to balance calcium levels and to make strong bones. However, to make enough vitamin D only about 15 minutes exposure is needed, three times a week, to skin that is visible when wearing a T-shirt - so most people will easily get this in their daily activities.
However, all too often we over-do our sun exposure which can lead to a range of skin problems, the most serious of which include skin cancer. Other summertime skin problems include sunburn, photosensitive rashes and prickly heat. In addition, sun exposure can worsen already existing conditions like rosacea. Additionally, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight contributes to ageing skin and wrinkles.
While many people associate a tan with looking healthy, a tan (and particularly sunburn) is actually a sign that our skin has been harmed by UV radiation and is trying to defend itself against further damage. This kind of damage can in turn increase your risk of developing skin cancer. More than 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually in the UK, and while the disease can also occur on parts of the body not exposed to sunlight, excessive sun exposure is thought to be responsible for the vast majority of cases. In more than four out of five cases skin cancer is a preventable disease.
- Take particular care in summer – especially between 11am and 3pm.
- Make sure your children are protected as well as yourself.
- Wear closely-woven clothing. Choose long sleeves, long trousers, or a long skirt.
- Look out for clothing with a label stating its UPF (protection factor) is greater than 40, which can often be found in outdoor activity shops. Tests have shown sun clothing blocks ultraviolet radiation very effectively and is much better than sunscreen. However, even some normal fabrics are protective.
- Put on a broad-brimmed hat.
- Chose to keep in the shade.
- Apply a sunscreen to all uncovered skin before you go out, and then ensure you re-apply throughout the day, as cream often rubs off on clothing, with sweat, and particularly if at the beach, with sand and sea water. This applies even to those ‘once-daily’ sunscreens.
- For those concerned about Vitamin D, be aware that it is generated by a little sunshine as you go about your daily life without getting a heavy tan or burning, and through your diet. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D (for example some yogurts, margarine and cereals) and others, such as oily fish, are naturally rich in vitamin D. You can also take a vitamin supplement containing vitamin D, such as a multivitamin or cod liver oil, available from a pharmacist.