Enjoying the Sunshine Safely

You can’t beat a warm, sunny day. When the sun is shining, you’ll be hard pushed to find many people that would rather be indoors. But as you enjoy the warmth of the sun’s rays, it’s important to also remember the harmful effects they can have on your skin.

Enjoying the outdoors when the sun is out can have many benefits. As well as improving your mood and wellbeing, and reducing your risk of depression, a safe level of sun exposure to your skin is an important source of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health.It may also help to reduce your risk of certain diseases, including a number of cancers.

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However, too much sun will damage your skin and puts you at serious risk of skin cancer. Being aware of good sun care can help you enjoy the benefits of the sun while reducing your risk of long-term skin damage. In the UK, Sun Awareness Week runs from 6 to 12 May this year, but wherever you are in the world, the following advice will help you to enjoy the sunshine safely.

Shade

One of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays is to seek shade when you’re out and about. Spend time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest. This is usually between 11am and 3pm, but can differ depending on where you are in the world.

Shade can be found under trees, using umbrellas or canopies, or simply by staying indoors. If you’re heading to the beach or a park where you don’t think there will be much shade, take a tent or some kind of shelter to create some shade. Wide-brimmed hats will shade your face and shoulders.

Don’t be fooled by cloud cover. Even on a cloudy day, 30 to 40 percent of UV rays will penetrate through, meaning you are still at risk of burning. Also remember that sunlight can reflect off surfaces. About 75 percent of sun-burning rays are reflected back from snow, 15 percent from sand and five to 10 percent from water.

Covering up

The more of your skin that you cover with clothing, the better the protection. Choose materials with a tight weave to help block out the most UV rays. Also remember, when clothes become wet, they can stretch, which allows more UV rays through to your skin.

Treat yourself to a hat to help protect you face, head and shoulders, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.When you buy sunglasses makes sure they have at least one of the following:

  • the ‘CE Mark’
  • a UV 400 label
  • a statement that the sunglasses offer 100 percent UV protection

It’s a good idea to buy sunglasses that protect the side of your eyes too. In Australia, where sun care is very important, many people wear the wraparound style of glasses to protect the whole eye.

Sunscreen

The key here is to apply generously and regularly. Use sunscreens of at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15, together with seeking shade and wearing clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. The following tips will help you get the most from wearing sunscreen.

  • Apply sunscreen to clean, dry skin.
  • Use plenty of sunscreen and reapply it regularly, especially if you are in and out of water, or sweating – even if it claims to be ‘waterproof’ or ‘water resistant’.
  • Don’t be tempted to spend longer in the sun just because you have sunscreen on.
  • Try not to leave sunscreens in direct sunlight or in a hot place – extreme heat can ruin their protective qualities.
  • Did you know that sunscreen expires? Check the date before you apply it, or if it isn’t clear, mark the date you bought the bottle with a permanent marker and use it within three years.

Find out more

For more information on sun care, such as checking moles, the dangers of sunbeds and how to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion, see Bupa’s Sun care factsheet.

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