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The facts about sun tanning
Published on 09 May 2017 by Rakhi Choudhary, GP, updated on 09 May 2017
Watch out for those Sun Rays
There is nothing like the Great British Summer! With everyone gearing up for garden barbecues, picnics in the park and country walks. It is also estimated that over 23% of the country go abroad on a beach holiday during the summer months. There are lots of benefits for us sun seekers, however there are a few things we should be aware of when exposing ourselves to the sun.
Some of the benefits of being out and about in the sunshine include boosting our Vitamin D level. The sun also causes the happy hormone called serotonin to be released which makes us happy and improves our general well being! Too much sun however can be damaging to our skin: in the short term it can cause pigmentation and sun burn, and in the long run it can lead to ageing of the skin and skin cancers. NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence have advised that there is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is the skin's response to the sun's damaging rays and is therefore an indicator of sun damage.
The sun produces two main types of Ultraviolet light, UVA, and UVB. The UV level in sun affects our skin. UV level from the sun is higher closer to the equator, at higher altitudes, midday, and around the sea. In the UK during summer the sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm. Even if it is cloudy it is possible to get sun burnt. The Met Office produces daily information about UV levels, called the UV index. The index is given as a figure in a triangle over the maps they use when giving forecasts. The higher the index, the greater the risk, and the more care you should take when outside.
It is important to keep children safe from the sun at all times. Babies under 6 months should not have direct strong sunlight exposure. Children should be encouraged to play in the shade, cover up and wear sun cream too!
How to minimise your risk from the sun:
Try to avoid going out when the sun is at its strongest, midday 11am to 3pm.
Cover up, wear loose long sleeves, and cover the backs of legs.
Wear a wide brimmed hat, that provides your body with shade.
Wear creams that are a high index. Look for the UVA logo, this means it meets the standard for minimum UVA protection. Use lots of it! On average to cover a whole body you need 8 teaspoons. The thicker you apply it the better.
If you are out in the sun for a long time, re-apply it, ideally after 2 hours. SPF gives a guide to how much sun protection is afforded by a particular sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection. SPF 30 and above is advisable.
Wear wraparound sun glasses, so that the sides of your eye are protected too. They should have the CE mark which indicates they conform to European Standards.
With some sensible clothing, sun cream and timing there is now reason why we can’t all enjoy the glorious Sunshine!
If you are worried about the sun and are going on holiday soon, pop into our travel clinic and make sure you're prepared! Just call 0800 852 1234.