The Sun and Your Skin

With summer in full swing, it’s a rare pleasure to enjoy the warming sun’s rays. However with differing advice on how to enjoy it, it can be confusing; should we be outside to get our recommended Vitamin D requirements, or should we avoid the sunshine to protect our skin from damage - at best to avoid skin ageing and at worst to deter harmful skin damage?

There are no official guidelines on how much sun is needed to keep your Vitamin D levels up, as it varies according to the strength of the suns rays, cloud coverage and your skin tone. However, some studies show that 5-30 minutes between 10am and 3pm, twice a week should be plenty. If you can and want to be outside longer, here are some tips to help minimise skin damage.

What are UVA and UVB?
Sunlight is made up of different elements that affect our skin in various ways. UVA is a longer type ray that impacts deeper layers of the skin and is the culprit of premature skin ageing. UVB is shorter so only hits the upper layers of the dermis, causing sunburn and harmful skin damage. Sun lotion is usually labelled to show how well they protect the skin from these different types of sun rays so always read the label and look for broad-spectrum coverage. When properly applied, SPF 50 lotions can block 98% of UVB rays, whilst SPF 30 block only 97% (that 1% makes a difference) and can allow up to 50% more UV radiation to come into contact with your skin.

Have fun in the shade.
Though soaking up the sun is an enjoyable experience, being out in the sun during the most damaging hours (11am - 2pm) for a long period of time does untold damage than has long-lasting consequences. Sun lotion when re-applied regularly can offer protection, but regular high UV ray contact is something to avoid.

Cover up.
Staying in the shade combined with SPF protection is a great way to protect your skin, but did you know, even on an overcast day, your skin is still in contact with harmful UV rays. Wearing UV absorbing clothing, or light coloured, natural fabrics adds another layer of protection, as does a sun hat and polarised high-quality sunglasses that help protect your eyes from sun damage too.

Hydrate inside and out.
When your skin becomes dehydrated it is more susceptible to premature ageing and breakouts. Aim to drink between 2-3 litres of water a day, especially when out in the sun, and incorporate skin-aiding ingredients into your diet such as good-quality olive oil, nuts, oily fish like salmon, green leafy vegetables and fruit rich in Vitamin C. Taking supplements such as Collagen or Hyaluronic Acid can help give your skin a boost too.

Tend to your sunburn.
You skin doesn’t have to turn lobster red - even a pink hue means you’ve been burned. If your skin does start to redden, return indoors or into the shade and drink plenty of water. Use cool, damp compresses to help calm your skin; these will help to draw the heat away from the skin. Avoid placing ice directly as the extreme cold can actually make the sunburn more painful. Apply an Aloe Vera rich lotion or toner to help soothe and calm any painful redness; thick buttery creams that have fragrance or contain strong ingredients like tea tree or menthol can cause the skin to flare up, as well as trap heat in the skin causing more damage. Cover up the burnt area if returning into the sunshine to avoid any more sun damage.

Take care of your skin
Covering your skin in sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin, but it can cause skin issues in turn if it is used too often. Try and have days off from strong sunshine and let your skin breathe by having a make-up free day, using a good-quality cleanser and toner as well as exfoliating once a week. Saltwater and chlorinated water can also be detrimental so always wash your skin with clean water after contact. Last but not least, regularly check your skin for sun damage, in particular, any moles that may have changed in appearance; if you are worried, always get them checked with your GP.