15 important sun protection tips for your next holiday

16 Sep 2016

Don't spoil your next trip with a painful bout of sunburn - follow this advice to avoid burning and keep your skin super healthy in the sun...

Sunscreen advice

1. What the heck is SPF?

The Sun Protection Factor (or SPF) measures the amount of protection from the sun’s harmful UVB rays. The higher the number, the more protected you are.

2. And what about the UVA star rating?

A good SPF protecting against UVB rays is not enough – you also need protection from UVA rays. This is measured on sunscreen bottles using a rating of between 0 and 5 stars alongside the letters UVA in a circle – again, the higher the stars, the better the protection.

3. What SPF do I need?

Generally, the higher the better, however certain skin types and temperatures definitely require more protection than others. Use the Skin Type Tool on Cancer Research UK’s website to work out if you need extra protection. 

4. What about water resistant sunscreen?

Although water-resistant sunscreens may give slightly longer-lasting protection than regular ones, it is still recommended by the NHS and Cancer Research UK that you reapply all sunscreens after being in the water. 

5. How often should I reapply sunscreen?

Generally-speaking every 2-4 hours, but more when you’ve been sweating, exercising or towelling yourself dry etc. And if you’re planning on being in the sun all day, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you leave AND just as you’re leaving, so you’re fully protected.

6. How much sunscreen should I use?

Probably a lot more than you think. Apply sunscreen liberally, using around 6 to 8 teaspoons per adult. A thinner layer isn’t enough protection – and is probably why you’ve burned even after using sun protection.

7. How long does sunscreen last in the bottle?
All sunscreen has a sell-by date – make sure you check yours before you travel. 

8. Sunscreen and eczema

The NHS warns that some sunscreen aggravates eczema. Check the label to see if you recognise any risky ingredients that have caused trouble in the past, make sure you apply eczema medication first, and test any new sunscreen on a small area of skin before applying it fully.

Other ways to protect against the sun

1. Clothing

It’s tempting to wear as little as possible in hot weather, but the more covered you are, the better protected your skin is. Opt for a wide-brimmed hat that covers the head, neck and shoulders, wear a lightweight long-sleeved top, and try to wear longer shorts and maxi dresses to cover your legs and sun-sensitive knees.

2. Sunglasses

Your eyes are particularly prone to sun damage – and believe it or not, you can actually get sunburn on the surface of the eye. As well as following your mother’s advice and never looking at the sun, you should wear sunglasses with a CE mark, a British Standard label (BS EN 1836:1997), UV 400 label and ‘100% UV protection’ on the sticker/packaging. Wraparound styles also protect the side of the eye.

3. The Shadow Rule

Experts recommend a simple way of measuring whether you should be in the shade or not: if your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the sun is at its fiercest, and you should avoid prolonged periods outside/out of the shade. This is usually between 11am and 3pm.

4. Clouds aren’t cover

Be aware that you can still burn even if it’s cloudy – so even if the sun isn’t shining directly on you, you should still avoid being outside for long periods without sun protection if it’s hot/at the peak time of 11am-3pm.

And finally…

1. If you do get sunburn

  • Use painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol to reduce inflammation.
  • Sponge the skin with cool water
  • Use aftersun and calamine lotion
  • Stay out of the sun until the redness has gone
  • Seek medical help if your skin is swollen or blistered.

  • 2. If you’re still worried

    Ask the experts. There’s plenty of official word on sun protection out there, and it’s updated all the time:
  • NHS
  • British Association of Dermatologists
  • Sun Awareness Week
  • Cancer Research UK
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