Summer is my favourite season. Or rather, in England, it’s my favourite ‘day’ of the year… We can hardly say it lasts three months. You know how it goes – the weatherman predicts a few hot days and everybody flies into a temporary state of mirth, like a kid in a candy store. There are no portable BBQ’s left in Sainsbury’s, men walk around with no tops on exposing raw shoulders and there is always somebody who still insists on sunbathing even with a peeling back.
We all love the sun. But how much sun is too much? When does innocent sunbathing turn into sun worshipping? Depending on your skin type, dermatologists say the duration of the sunbath differs. But whether you’re an English rose or a bronzed goddess: you must not directly expose yourself between midday and three o’clock. Forget tan. The sun will burn.
Skin cancer is on the rise…
On your first day of exposure to the sun, you should only spend around 30 minutes in direct sunlight. Yes, I said minutes, not hours. Thirty minutes? I can almost hear the disappointment. But what’s more important? Endless hours sun worshipping, or your safety? The use of sunscreen with UV protection should go without saying…
But there is a striking inconsistency between the increased use of sunscreen and the decline of skin-cancer. Skin cancer is on the rise, mostly effecting women aged fifteen to thirty five. So where’s the problem?
Read the ingredients, not just the label.
The problem is that when we choose our sunscreen, our eyes scan the products until we see a number. A number that will either protect us from the sun’s harmful rays, or let them over cook our limbs. Those seeking a sensual glow are most likely to choose a lower factor while those seeking pale perfection will choose the highest. Whatever you choose, you need to read this:
The SPF factor on sunscreen bottles only tells us how much protection the sunscreen has against the suns ‘burning rays’, or UVB rays. These rays can cause sunburn by penetrating through the top layers of the skin. At worst, they can aid the development of skin cancer, but not cause it completely.
UVA rays often go unheard of by many yet they penetrate deeper…
So what else is going wrong? You’ve heard of the phrase, ‘silent but deadly’? Or ‘it’s always the ones you least suspect’? Well as cliché as those phrases may sound, they apply here. UVA rays often go unheard of by many yet they penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays.
The uncomfortable thing is, you don’t have to spend your days being sun-baked for these rays to harm you. They cut through clouds and glass and can damage the collagen and elastin in your cells. Hello wrinkles and saggy skin. But these are the least of your worries. If you think these effects are bad… you might want to take a seat for the next fact.
…the best protection will contain ‘avobenzone’…
UVA rays trigger cell mutations, which may trigger skin cancer. The scary part? A painful paradox: UVA protection does not yet have an FDA-approved rating on sunscreen bottles, despite them being more dangerous than UBA rays.
To protect against UBA rays you need to ensure you read the ingredients label more carefully. The products which offer you the best protection will contain ‘avobenzone’ which will absorb the UVA as it hits your skin or ‘zinc oxide’ which will reflect the UVA rays off your skin. You can find these ingredients amongst certain sunscreen formulas produced by Lancôme, La Roche-Posay, Neutrogena, and Aveeno, although it is also worth looking around the sunscreen market.
What sunscreen should we use?
Once your skin is tanned, you can intensify the bronze by using a sunscreen with a lower filter. Those with darker skin can use oils, with caution, to intensify the tan (not in the middle of the day and not in a hot country!). Mix a teaspoon of olive-oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice with the oil to maintain a golden glow. Creams and lotions with 15-20 SPF work best before the skin is tanned. But, this is only a guide. Be realistic, if you are extremely pale you should never go lower than SPF 30.
You should never wash with cold water.
After exposure to the sun, wash your skin with warm water. You should never wash with cold water. If you have damaged your skin, the cold water will mask the sunburn and you risk damaging it further because, being unaware of the damage, you may expose your skin to the sun again. If you have sunburn, the warm water will bring it to your attention.
Always apply after sun cream in generous amounts to sooth, cool down and moisturise your beautiful skin. Aim for sun-kissed not sun-burnt, suntanned not sun-baked, and if your faking it, bronze not orange.