Staying safe in the sun

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Warm summer, bright sun, how long we wait for it and dream about it! and of course

holiday time on the coast, accompanied by a beautiful golden tan.

In fact, we can often end up with scorched skin, sleepless nights, and sometimes a temperature that quickly rises due to sunburn.

So how to sunbath and stay healthy?

To avoid sunburns and get a beautiful tan, you just need to follow a few simple rules.

Advice for adults and children on sunscreen and sun safety in the UK and abroad.

Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. Sunburn does not just happen on holiday. You can burn in the UK, even when it's cloudy.

There's no safe or healthy way to get a tan. A tan does not protect your skin from the sun's harmful effects.

Aim to strike a balance between protecting yourself from the sun and getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Sun safety tips

Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October.

Make sure you:

  • spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm

  • make sure you never burn

  • cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses

  • take extra care with children

  • use at least factor 30 sunscreen

What factor sunscreen (SPF) should I use?

Do not rely on sunscreen alone to protect yourself from the sun.

Wear suitable clothing and spend time in the shade when the sun's at its hottest.

When buying sunscreen, the label should have:

  • a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB

  • at least 4-star UVA protection

UVA protection can also be indicated by the letters "UVA" in a circle, which indicates that it meets the EU standard.

Make sure the sunscreen is not past its expiry date. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years.

Do not spend any longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen.

What are the SPF and star rating?

The sun protection factor, or SPF, is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection.

SPFs are rated on a scale of 2 to 50+ based on the level of protection they offer, with 50+ offering the strongest form of UVB protection.

The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet a radiation (UVA) protection. You should see a star rating of up to 5 stars on UK sunscreens. The higher the star rating, the better.

The letters "UVA" inside a circle is a European marking. This means the UVA protection is at least a third of the SPF value and meets EU recommendations.

Sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB protection are sometimes called broad spectrum.

How to apply sunscreen

Most people do not apply enough sunscreen.

As a guide, adults should aim to apply around:

  • 2 teaspoons of sunscreen if you're just covering your head, arms and neck

  • 2 tablespoons if you're covering your entire body while wearing a swimming costume

If sunscreen is applied too thinly, the amount of protection it gives is reduced.

If you're worried you might not be applying enough SPF30, you could use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.

If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, sunscreen needs to be applied twice:

  • 30 minutes before going out

  • just before going out

Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears, and head if you have thinning or no hair, but a wide-brimmed hat is better.

Sunscreen needs to be reapplied liberally and frequently, and according to the manufacturer's instructions.

This includes applying it straight after you have been in water, even if it's "water resistant", and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off.

It's also recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, as the sun can dry it off your skin.

Swimming and sunscreen

Water washes sunscreen off, and the cooling effect of the water can make you think you're not getting burned. Water also reflects ultraviolet (UV) rays, increasing your exposure.

Use water-resistant sunscreen if it's likely you'll sweat or have contact with water.

Sunscreen should be reapplied straight after you have been in water, even if it's "water resistant", and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off.

Children and sun protection

Take extra care to protect babies and children. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.

Children aged under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.

From March to October in the UK, children should:

  • cover up with suitable clothing

  • spend time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm

  • wear at least SPF30 sunscreen

Apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands.

Protect your eyes in the sun

A day at the beach without proper eye protection can cause a temporary but painful burn to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn.

Reflected sunlight from snow, sand, concrete and water, and artificial light from sunbeds, is particularly dangerous.

Avoid looking directly at the sun, as this can cause permanent eye damage.

Clothing and sunglasses

Wear clothes and sunglasses that provide sun protection, such as:

  • a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears

  • a long-sleeved top