When people hear the word ‘Summer’ or ‘Holiday’, they probably think of bikini’s, ice cold ciders and sand in between their toes. I think of these things too. But more often than not, the first thing I think of is Sunburn. Back when I was in my early twenties I suffered severe sunburn (as you can see from my embarrassing Now magazine story below). I was on a three day holiday in Spain with a friend, and by the time I came back I had a red raw chest, purple legs, swollen ankles, in fact I couldn’t even walk properly. I would wake up every morning with completely numb legs and nausea. And it took the skin on my shins almost six months to recover from the burns. I would never want anyone to go through what I went through.
Whilst I did use suntan lotion, there are other factors I didn’t consider such a checking the SPF, having ‘Shade’ breaks and so on. It seems Summer can be a dangerous time for us because of all the skin we willingly expose. So, in honour of Sun Awareness week, and with a little help from the folks over at the British Skin Foundation, I have put together all the tips you need to protect your skin this summer into one big list below. So why not bookmark this post and that way you will always have it to hand over the Summer period (if your one of my Aussie readers , G’day to you, and why not read my Winter Skin Tips instead?)
Choose the right Suntan Lotion
Take into consideration your skin type. If your naturally a very pale person or have sensitive skin, you are going to be much safer starting off with a higher factor. In really hot weather I start with factor 50, then as my tan builds and my skin becomes used to the sun, I work my way down to a 30. But I never go lower than factor 30. According to the British Skin Foundation we should be buying a lotion with protection SPF too, they recommend SPF 30 or more in order to protect against harmful UVA.
Apply it early
Don’t wait until your about to walk out the door before you apply your suntan lotion. BSF advise applying it around 30 minutes before you head out into the sun so that your skin can absorb it properly. By leaving it till your about to be exposed you run the risk of sweating it off straight away and the lotion wont have time to sink into your skin and begin protecting.
Top up after a swim
Don’t forget to reapply after swimming or having any contact with water. Even though a sun tan lotion may say it’s Water Resistant, this doesn’t mean that you can swim in and out of the water all day without it having any effect on your lotion application. It does have an effect. Water resistant means that you can go into the water and it will protect you, but only for a certain amount of time, eventually it will begin to decline in SPF protection. Therefore it is much safer to reapply suntan lotion every few hours, especially after swimming, sweating or towel-drying.
Take Shade Breaks
The hottest hours of the day are from 11am to 3pm, so make sure that during these hours you rest in the shade, even if it’s just at short intervals. You might want that golden tan really really badly and think you’ll be missing out on prime-tanning hours, but it is very dangerous to be exposing yourself to the baking sun for that long. There are over 100,000 cases of Skin Cancer diagnosed in the UK each year, so think about that next time your sat in the peak hours of sunshine and make the effort to get up and go for a little break in the shade.
Cover yourself up
According to the British Skin Foundation, we need to be wearing a big hat when we are sat in the sun. A hat will protect the bits we probably forget about, such as our neck, ears, scalp (burnt scalp is the worst, that moment you pull the brush through your hair – OUCH!) and let’s not forget the face. It’s basically a great excuse to go and treat yourself to an oversized fedora – I know I will be.
It is very important to keep drinking water when you are in the sun. In extreme heat your body sweats out all your water, which not only lowers your SPF protection, but it dehydrates your body which can lead to sunstroke. Always carry a bottle of water with you during the summer season.
Back when I had my horrific sunburn and sunstroke, I had no idea what to do, or what was even happening. I’d never had sunstroke before, and I thought I was having a reaction to the suntan lotion. With only three days in Spain I didn’t want to waste my time feeling ill, so I continued holidaying – in agony – as if nothing had happened. Now that I am now older and wiser, I take much better care of my skin in the sun (as proven by the photos above taken in Australia last year in 40 degree heat, I was all about covering up), but should you find yourself experiencing sunstroke, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, Dr Anjali Mahto, has offered these quick fire steps of what to do:
- Act quickly and get out of the sun, stay in the shade and keep covered up.
- Take over the counter pain relief, Analgesia or painkillers can help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation caused by sunburn.
- Cool the skin. Apply a cool compress to the skin e.g. a towel dampened with cool water for 15 minutes.
- Moisturise. After a bath or shower, use an unperfumed cream or lotion to soothe the skin.
- Drink LOTS of water
- Leave blisters alone and avoid popping
And finally some wise words from Dr Bav Shergill, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Trustee, about checking your skin, which is just as important as protecting your skin and should be done regularly!
“The best way to detect skin cancer is to check your skin regularly, about once a month. You should examine the skin all over your body, from top to toe. Look out for moles or patches of skin that are growing, changing shape, developing new colours, inflamed, bleeding, crusting, red around the edges, particularly itchy, or behaving unusually. Remember, if in doubt, get it checked out straight away.” – Dr Bav Shergill
For more info and tips head to www.ittakesseven.org.uk