How to… stay safe in the sun this summer

summer beachAfter falling asleep in the garden for an hour last summer, I was once again taught the cruel lesson of sun exposure with sunburn reaching from the tips of my toes to the top of my neck. I spent a week sleeping and shivering under a cold damp towel at night to cool down my poor parched skin. The memory still stays with me and the faint straight line across my collarbone also serves as a reminder of the playsuit that I wore that day.

Whether you’re heading off on holiday soon or crossing your fingers for a spot of sun in Scotland this summer, read on to avoid the lobster look.


Sunscreen is your friend

Sunscreen is designed to block ultraviolet light that damages the skin and contains sun protection factor (SPF). The different SPF numbers measure the effect of the sunscreen against UVB rays- the nasty rays which cause sunburn!

Exposure to sunlight also leaves us open to skin-damaging UVA and Ultraviolet (UV) which can lead to sunburn and changing your skin’s texture by premature wrinkling.

You can work out which SPF factor you need by using this equation:

Minutes you take to burn with no sunscreen on (e.g 10 mins) x SPF number (e.g SPF 15)

= Maximum sun exposure time (10x 15= 150 minutes which you can safely stay in the sun with SPF 15)

The best time to apply sunscreen is about 30 minutes before you go out in the sun, with re-applications recommended every two hours. Remember to put some sunscreen on the tops of your ears and Vaseline or lip-balm on your lips.


What affects sun cream?

Water reflects light, which halves the amount of time that you can safely spend in the sun. If, for instance, it normally takes 30 minutes before your skin burns and you were to spend 30 minutes in the pool with no sun cream on, it would take just 15 minutes before sunburn will start to begin. Not only that, water droplets on the skin can magnify UV light, which means that you should only spend about 10 minutes in the water if you have no cream on.

Other light reflecting surfaces include cement, sand and even snow, so keep yourself protected whatever the time of year.


Times to avoid the sun

The sun’s rays are most damaging between 10am and 4pm, with a shady place being the best place to find shelter between midday hours.

While you’re out, keep covered up in long sleeves and wear a hat to avoid drying out your hair with the sun’s rays too.


The best sun creams

A recent BBC article found that cheaper lotions passed more SPF tests than their expensive top-end counterparts. Which? found that Aldi’s Lacura Suncare Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30 passed all their tests at the cheapest price tag of £2.79, with Asda’s Protect Sun Lotion also passing with flying colours at just £3.50. Now there is no excuse to stock up and keep the heat off.


What to do if you get burnt

If you’re coming to this article a little too late in the game, here are some ideas to help take the sting out.

  • Stock up on aloe-vera gel, which will both soothe and coat your sunburn. Instead of rubbing it in, leave a layer sitting on top of your skin to stop it drying out.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like aspirin or Ibuprofen to reduce the redness and inflammation.
  • Have a cooling bath to ease the pain and stop your skin becoming more irritated. Avoid rubbing your skin dry with a towel too or else feel the wrath of the aftermath on your poor skin.
  • Keep drinking water. It’s really important to combat the dehydrating effects of sunburn by trying to drink at least 236ml of water each day.
  • Dig out your baggy white t-shirts and loose pyjama bottoms whilst you’re recovering. Cotton clothes will also let your skin ‘breathe’ as it will feel like your skin is literally gasping for air at this point…

Take it easy this summer and don’t rush out in too much of a hurry if we’re graced with one hot day out of a summer of torrential rain. Remember the last time you had sunburn? Let’s not go there again…

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