14.04.2024

I’m a dermatologist — here are my 9 key tips on staying safe in the sun

Brits are set to bask in the sunshine this weekend. Highs of 22C (71.6F) are expected in , Southampton and on Saturday and the summer sunshine is expected to stay throughout next week.

However, dermatologists have urged those soaking up the sun to enjoy the toasty temperatures responsibly over concerns about rising cases of skin .

Almost nine in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented by staying safe in the sun, experts warn.

Dr Elizabeth Blakeway-Manning, a consultant dermatologist in Yorkshire and the Melanoma Fund’s medical ambassador, shared her top tips for staying safe outdoors with MailOnline.

Cancer Research UK says rates of skin cancer have more than doubled since the 1990s, and sun exposure is the culprit in nine out of 10 cases.

Dr Elizabeth Blakeway-Manning, a consultant dermatologist in Yorkshire and the Melanoma Fund's medical ambassador, shared her top tips for staying safe outdoors with MailOnline

There are two types of skin cancer — melanoma, which forms in the lowest layer of the skin’s epidermis, and non-melanoma, which forms in the upper layers.

Melanoma is the far more deadly type — accounting for almost three times the number of non-melanoma deaths each year.

In total, more than 3,000 people will die from skin cancer each year in the UK, while almost 10,000 people will lose their lives to the disease annually in the US.

Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in skin cells, which can cause them to start growing out of control and lead to skin cancer.

Exposure to UV rays can also cause early ageing of the skin, including wrinkles, age spots and sagging, according to skin cancer charity the Melanoma Fund.

But while sun screen is vital for UV protection, there are other ways to help shield your skin from the rays.

Clothing is key protection

Your first line of defence should be clothing — and you should make sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas.

Clothing absorbs or blocks harmful UV rays

But as the day heats up, it’s a ‘natural impulse to remove clothing’, the experts said.

This can mean leave skin exposed, making it key to apply cream to these areas.

Dr Blakeway-Manning, who is also a consultant dermatologist at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, also recommends always wearing a hat — such as one with a legionnaire flap at the back or a wide brim.

This is because your forehead, scalp and ears are particularly vulnerable.

Shade protects from UV rays

For those less adoring of the heat, the shade offers a welcome reprieve.

But it’s also a good way to give your skin a break from powerful UV rays in between tanning.

The experts say that, along with clothing, shade is the best UV protection.

If shade is hard to come by, they recommend using temporary structures such as gazebos, sails, or sports umbrellas.

Best sunscreen is SPF30+ non-greasy

A SPF30+ broad-spectrum product in a non-greasy formula is the ideal sunscreen choice, the experts said.

‘As a parent, lead by example and apply to your skin as well as theirs,’ Ms Baker added.

You should apply sunscreen 20 minutes before heading outdoors to ensure it has time to set and dry. This also prevents it from running off into your eyes when you start to sweat.

It’s also key to pay special attention to your ears and nose – areas many people forget.

‘If using technical protective equipment, be sure to apply a non-greasy sunscreen formulation in advance to avoid the product compromising effectiveness,’ the experts added.

Check your sunscreen is in date

Most sunscreens have a three-year shelf life.

But the more the bottle is opened and closed, the more likely it is that germs will contaminate the bottle and hasten degradation.

And the experts said that this contamination is far more likely from dirty hands, such as ones covered in sand from the beach.

Writing the first date of use on the bottle to remind yourself how long it has been open for is recommended.

Always re-apply, even once-a-day sunscreens

Reapplication of all types of sunscreens is recommended every two hours, even for once-a-day formulas.

The experts claimed this is because no matter how diligently you apply, parts of the body will likely be missed — which could leave particular areas of skin vulnerable for the whole day.

Perspiration, water and wiping off dirt can all remove even a once-a-day product — especially if you are undertaking vigorous outdoor activities.

Wear light fabrics with a tight weave

Wearing light clothes that have a tight weave are best in the sun, said Dr Blakeway-Manning and Ms Baker.

These offer the best protection as a tight weave leaves very few holes in between — preventing rays from filtering through.

The experts said: ‘You can test suitability by holding the fabric up to the sun.

‘If none or minimal light filters through, you’re sorted.’

Don’t get caught out by rays

Many people get a sunburn from being caught out by the weather, the experts said.

Often, you can start an activity in the early morning when the weather is mild, but it then turns into a hot day. This can then result in sunburn, they claimed.

On top of that, it’s possible to get a sunburn on overcast days. This is because clouds provide little protection against the UV rays.

To find out whether sun protection is needed that, check the UV index, which can be found on weather websites.

The experts recommend using sun protection if the UV is as little as 3 or above.

Never use sunbeds

Many people have a desire to tan their skin, whether that be through sunbeds or faking it.

But sunbeds give out UV light — and in some doses are even stronger than midday tropical sun — that can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Signs of skin damage are not always obvious for up to 20 years.

But they usually start with a mole that has changed colour or appearance, which may later scab or bleed, according to the NHS.

Dr Blakeway-Manning and Ms Baker have stressed that if you wish to tan safely, ‘fake it and never use sunbeds’.

Sun exposure is needed for vitamin D

Despite the need to protect your skin from the rays, it can also be beneficial.

Exposure to sunlight is needed to maintain healthy reserves of vitamin D in the body — which is essential for the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin D is made as the sun’s ultraviolet B rays (UVB) interact with a protein in the skin called 7-DHC.

The experts say that in general, 10 to 15 minutes exposure to the face and arms is recommended as a minimum, but skin can redden in less time that that.

Two or three times a week of sun exposure in the summer months is adequate, they added.

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