The sun has finally got his hat on! We spend months waiting for it to come out, then worry that our kids are getting too much of it. Our sun-safety guide is here to make skin protection easy, so everyone can play, relax and have fun.
How much sun do you need?
The first step to sun-safety is making sure your knowledge is up to date. For example, a lot of people think going slightly pink in the sun is “just part of getting a tan”, when actually it’s sunburn. There’s also been a debate about how much sun exposure we really need. While our bodies need sunlight to make vitamin D, according to the charity Cancer Research UK, most of us can get this just by going about our normal lives. There’s no health benefit to actually bathing in it.
If you’re at risk from vitamin D deficiency, the government recommends a supplement of 10mg (400IU) a day. Talk to your GP about vitamin D supplements if you are worried about your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is also present in foods such as eggs, fatty fish, fish liver oils and some fortified cereals.
People who are most likely to be lacking in vitamin D include:
- People with naturally brown or black skin, for example people of African, Afro-Caribbean or South Asian family origin
- People who wear clothing that fully conceals them
- People over the age of 65
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Babies and children aged under 5
- People who are housebound or confined inside for long periods of time, for example in hospital
Sun safety begins at home
Staycationing is sure to be popular this year, but whether you’re in Majorca or Margate, the same rules apply (it’s the same sun, after all).
The 11–3 Hot Spot
The sun tends to be at its strongest in the UK between 11am and 3pm. Cancer Research recommends:
- Spend time in the shade
- Cover up with clothes, a hat and sunglasses.
- Use a sunscreen with a protection level of at least SPF15 and 4 stars. Use it generously and reapply regularly.
Tips for using sunscreen properly
No sunscreen will give the protection it claims unless you apply it properly.
Make sure you put enough sunscreen on – people often apply much less than they need to. When your risk of burning is high, ensure that all exposed skin is thoroughly covered in sunscreen. As a guide for an adult this means: Around 2 teaspoonfuls of sunscreen if you’re just covering your head, arms and neck. Around 2 and a half tablespoonfuls if you’re covering your entire body, for example while wearing a swimming costume
Reapply sunscreen regularly including ‘once a day’ and ‘water resistant’ products. Some products are designed to stay on better than others, but beware of sunscreen rubbing, sweating or washing off. It’s especially important to reapply after towelling dry. And reapplying helps avoid missing bits of skin.
Use sunscreen together with shade and clothing to avoiding getting caught out by sunburn.
Don’t be tempted to spend longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen.
Don’t store sunscreens in very hot places as extreme heat can ruin their protective chemicals.
Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your sunscreen. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years, shown on the label by a symbol of a pot with the letter M and a number – this is the number of months the sunscreen will last once it’s been opened. Check your sunscreen has not expired before you use it.
Water, water everywhere
Although a quick dip is a great way to cool off, it won’t help you avoid sunburn, as sunlight both goes through water and reflects off its surface. Make sure everyone is wearing waterproof sunscreen and get them to reapply it regularly (even ‘one application’ varieties rub off with a towel). Kids need plenty of water inside too – make sure you take some with you whenever you’re out in the sun.
The big three of sun protection
Sun safety comes down to three things – shade, protective clothing and sunscreen. Here’s how to use them correctly, and get the most out of your time in the sun.
Head for the shade
Maximising on shade is one of the most important aspects of sun protection, whether you’re in the garden or at the beach. But try telling kids that. This is where a bit of psychology (or, as we prefer to call it, sneakiness) comes in.
Top tips for keeping young adventurers out of the glare:
- Put play areas like sandpits or paddling pools in a shady part of the garden.
- Invest in a small play tent – great for home or away.
- Create a shady chill-out area with cold drinks, cushions and quiet activities like sticker books, which they can come to for some down time out of the sun.
- Encourage den-building with any safe materials you have to hand – with any luck, they’ll stay there for hours. Genius.
Top sunscreen mistakes (and how to avoid them)
There’s no doubt that sunscreen is a summer essential, but a lot of us still aren’t using it properly – or have unrealistic expectations of what it can do. Watch out for these common mistakes that could make your sun protection less effective.
Mistake 1: Not using enough
Cancer Research recommend using two and a half tablespoonfuls per adult if you’re wearing a swimsuit (scale down for little ones as appropriate). Any less and you’re not getting the full effect.
Mistake 2: Thinking a high factor can help you stay out for longer
Sunscreen, no matter what the factor or star rating, can’t help you stay out longer in the sun. Children especially shouldn’t be in full sunshine for too long, especially not in the middle of the day.
Mistake 3: Relying on sunscreen alone
Sunscreen alone can’t protect you from sun damage. Think of it as a useful tool alongside shade and clothing – the other two essentials for protecting children’s skin.
Dressing for the sun
We’ve always known that covering up in the sun is a wise move. So it’s a good idea to make sure your kids’ summer wardrobe includes loose, long sleeve options and lightweight trousers (not just T-shirts and shorts) as well as the obligatory wide-brimmed or Foreign Legion-style hat.
And for the beach, there’s now a huge range of kids clothes with UV protection too. It might not be as cheap as throwing on an old T-shirt, but the high-tech fabric often comes with other benefits like temperature regulation and sand proofing to keep kids comfortable all day.
We all know children are great ones for copying. If you’re not wearing a sunhat, they’ll pull theirs off in no time. If you’re applying sunscreen regularly, they won’t want to be left out.
Keeping little ones safe in the sun is a great excuse to get the whole family into good habits. Explain to older siblings that they’ve got an important part to play in showing the younger ones what to do. And make sure Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie Carol are on board too.
For more information visit: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/sun-uv-and-cancer
Useful links: http://www.skcin.org/