Protecting yourself from the sun this summer

Dr Pallavi Gupta
Dr Pallavi Gupta

If the Easter hot weather saw you reaching for the final drops of last year’s suntan lotion, then read this before you top up with fresh supplies for the summer.

To coincide with Sun Awareness Week (May 6-12) Dr Pallavi Gupta, dermatology consultant at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove, takes the guesswork out of sunscreen shopping.

“There is so much choice of sunscreen lotions on the shelves but before you plump for your favourite brand, or the one that suits your pocket, take a close look at the label. Always check the UVA star rating as well as the SPF (sun protection factor).

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is transmitted in three forms - UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC radiation cannot penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, so does not reach our skin. Therefore, we only need to protect our skin from UVA and UVB.

UVA is associated with sun burn and skin ageing - which gives you wrinkles, leathery skin, brown spots and skin cancer. UVB causes sunburn and skin cancer.

When you buy sunscreen, it will be labelled with an SPF and a UVA star rating. The SPF is on a scale of 6 to 50+ with SPF 6 to 14 providing the least amount of protection against burning and skin cancer, and 50+ having the strongest protection from UVB.

The UVA star rating ranges from 0 to 5. The British Association of Dermatologists (www.BAD.org.uk) recommends using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and a UVA star rating of 4 to 5 as a good level of protection.

If you are going to swim, it is also important that the sunscreen you use is labelled as water-resistant so it does not wash off easily. However, you will still need to reapply it after bathing to ensure you have adequate protection throughout the day.

You may have your own favourite or you may just opt for the cheapest one in your supermarket but the main thing to check is the protection value and not the price.

It is important to apply sunscreen adequately, studies show most people only apply 25-50% of recommended amount of sunscreen.”

How to apply sunscreen

- Apply sun screen 15-30 min before going out in the sun.

- Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. Most adults need about 36g, or enough to fill a shot glass, to fully cover their body.

- Don’t forget to apply to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

- When outdoors, re-apply every two hours and straight after swimming or towelling.

- Sun creams have a sell by date so throw out old bottles and start the summer with a fresh purchase.

Tips for putting sunscreen on children

- Young children can be slippery fish when it comes to applying sunscreen so:

- Make putting on sunscreen a natural part of the preparations for going to the park or the beach.

- Make it family fun – help each other to apply sunscreen in front of a mirror so you can see which bits you’ve missed.

- Don’t leave it to the last minute to apply sunscreen - as soon as they see the water or playground, then you will have a battle on your hands. Instead, apply sunscreen before you leave the house.

- Time reapplications with a snack or treat for distraction.

- A squirming toddler? Then apply as much as you can while the child is strapped in their buggy or car seat.

Dr Pallavi Gupta is a dermatology consultant at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove Visit www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk or phone 01273 828 148.