Your skin & the sun
staying safe – protecting yourself against skin cancers and ageing
Why do doctors worry about exposure to the sun?
The reason why doctors get so worried about the sun is because its UV rays can cause moles to become cancerous. This risk is even higher if you sunburn easily. People with blonde, red or ginger hair and white skin are the most at risk. However, all people, regardless of skin colour are at risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Therefore – PROTECT YOUR SKIN – cover it up or put on a sunscreen cream/lotion.
I am black, brown or Asian – does that mean I am okay to stay in the sun?
You have a less chance of getting the nasty skin cancer called a melanoma. But actually, skin cancer affects all skin types, even dark brown skin – yes black and Asians still get them. In fact, melanomas in blacks, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 75 percent of lesions arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.
So, you’re saying stay out of the sun – are you kidding me? You’re going to wreck my holiday!
Fact: Brief intensive sunbathing is harmful, eg all day in the sun for one week. It may contribute to skin cancer developing.
We are not saying you can’t enjoy the sun – just don’t stay too long in it. And whilst you are in it – cover up with lotion – you’ll still feel the heat of the sun (just don’t get burnt). And cover up moles. And then do what you normally would do – relax, read a book, listen to music. But never fall asleep in the sun. If you want a little snooze or siesta – move into the shade first.
I am in the 15-35 age group. Surely I’m okay? Doesn’t skin cancer happen in older people?
Did you know that the melanoma is the 2nd commonest type of cancer AND the leading cause of death in the 15-35 age group! And the number of people affected is increasing year on year (perhaps because people stay out in the sun more than they used to).
But surely my kids are okay? They’re too young to get skin cancer and besides, we don’t want to ruin their time playing around in the sun?
If children get sunburn, did you know that it increases their risk of skin cancer in later life. Although the sunburn clears up nicely, the skin may have suffered damage that will show up later in life. Basically, kids who get sunburn have a higher risk of skin cancer in later life. In summary, protect your kids, and never let them get sunburnt. And by sunburnt, we don’t just mean severe reddening and blistering of the skin – if you see any signs of even slight reddening – get them out of the sun.
By all means, let your kids go out in the sun and have some fun. But before they do, cover them up with a suncream with an SPF of 30 or more. Be generous with its application – put plenty on. And keep reapplying it every 2 hours. By the way, having cream on doesn’t stop them from having fun… they probably won’t even be bothered.
But I want a tan!
We are sorry to tell you this but there is simply no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is the skin’s response to the sun’s damaging rays and is therefore an indicator of sun damage. Every time you get a sun tan, you should also think about the fact that you have also damaged your skin. Every time someone says ‘oooh, haven’t you got a nice tan’, think ‘I have obviously damage my skin significantly’. Every time you go on holiday and get a tan repeatedly increases your risk of skin cancer and will also definitely speed up the ageing process – making you look a lot older with leathery type skin by the time you are in your late 30s.
If you want the colour – would you consider a fake tan? Some look really good.
How long can I stay in the sun?
It depends on your complexion. Fair skin, red, ginger or blonde hair, and blue or green eyes are the most at risk of skin cancer caused by the sun. Dark skin with black hair are the most protected. If your skin does any of the following, then you are automatically at higher risk…
- Skin that freckles in the sun
- Skin that sunburns easily
- Skin that becomes painful in the sun easily
So, on a nice warm day (not too hot), if you are NOT wearing any form of sunscreen protection…
- Fair skinned people can stay out in the sun for 10 minutes before they will burn.
- Dark skin people can probably stay out for about an hour (60 minutes)
BUT…. Listen to this, if you cover yourself up and put on a suncream with an SPF of at least 30 – you can stay up for 2 hours (whether you are dark or light skinned)! And perhaps longer if you continue to apply sunscreen every 2 hours. But always remember – if your skin is getting hot – get into the shade.
Tell me more about skin types
Choose one statement from the list below that best describes your skin type and then read the guidance below it to see what your skin’s limitations are in the sun.
- Skin type 1: I always burn, I never tan.
- Skin type 2: if I spend an hour in the sun I feel slightly burnt the next day. After 7 days I have a slight tan.
- Skin type 3: if I spend an hour in the sun I feel slightly burnt the next day. After 7 days I am moderately tanned.
- Skin type 4: I never feel burnt after spending an hour in the sun. After seven days I am very tanned.
Skin type 1 – always burn, never tan
- Avoid sunbathing and make sure you cover arms and legs with long shirts etc when out in the summer sun.
- You will not get a tan – any attempts will only cause skin damage, which may later develop into cancer.
- Fine pale skin does not age as quickly as other skin types. Your tanned friends will get wrinkles long before you do.
Skin type 2 – slight burn, slight tan
- Don’t try to tan and also be careful of the sun.
- Use a sunscreen with a high protection factor (SPF 30)
Skin types 3 – slight burn, moderate tan
- You should wear a sunscreen (SP30)
- You are still at risk of developing skin cancer and should take care in the sun.
Skin type 4 – never burn, good tan
- Even though your chances of developing skin cancer are less than those of people with skin type 1, 2 or 3, the sun can still damage your skin and cause wrinkles.
- You should use a sunscreen (SP30), although if you’re not playing to sit in the sun and stay in the shade, you can get away with (SP15).
- By the way, you will still tan with sunscreen creams – just not as much compared to without (but please don’t risk it).
How do I chose a sunscreen cream or lotion? Any advice?
- Choose a cream or lotion with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30. SPF 50 does not offer significantly more protection than a sunscreen with SPF 30. For this reason, in Australia and America the highest SPF factor you will find is 30+.
- Select a product that filers both UVA and UVB rays. Also try and get one which tells you it protects against IRA (infra-red rays).
- Get a product that is water resistant – especially if you’re going to be going to paddle or swim. Swimming makes the skin more sensitive to the sun.
- Reading the label will tell you all of this information.
What does SPF actually mean?
- SPF 30 means that it takes 30 times longer to burn with that sunscreen than without it. You can work out the effectiveness of a sunscreen by this simple equation:
“multiplying the SPF factor by the length of time it takes for you to suffer a burn without sunscreen”
- For example, if a person develops a sunburn in 10 minutes when not wearing a sunscreen, the same person in the same intensity of sunlight will avoid sunburn for 150 minutes if wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. However, it is important to note that sunscreens with higher SPF do not last or remain effective on the skin any longer than lower SPF and must be continually reapplied as directed, usually every two hours.
- In practice, we don’t know how quickly we burn, while factors such as sweat, water and application reduce sunscreen’s effectiveness, so you shouldn’t try to use this calculation as a guide. For example, you might think that a person who burns at 10 minutes can put on a SPF 30 cream and stay out for 300 minutes – WRONG!!! Maximum is always 2 hours (i.e. 120 minutes) – then reapply or get indoors/into the shade.
- There are two systems for specifying a sunscreen’s protection. American SPF numbers are double the SPF numbers on European products. An American SPF 20 sunscreen is the same as SPF 10 in Europe. Check which system is being used when you buy, and ask if you are in doubt.
How do I put the sunscreen cream on?
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun (it takes a short time to soak into the skin and to work).
- Be generous with it – put plenty on. Don’t be shy with it! Apply a thick layer of lotion – enough sunscreen to cover the skin that will be exposed. For most people this is the equivalent of two teaspoons of cream for the head, neck and arms. If you don’t like looking ‘white’ all day, there are creams that absorb into transparency. Ask your pharmacist.
- Be sure to cover areas which are sometimes missed, such as the lips, ears, around the eyes, neck, scalp (particularly if you are bald or have thinning hair), backs of hands and tops of feet. you will burn if you miss bits and don’t reapply frequently.
- Re-apply frequently, at least every 2 hours
- Re-apply after swimming, towelling yourself dry or excessive sweating (even those that are labelled waterproof).
- Note that the guy in the picture on the right has not covered his face properly with sunscreen cream. A lot of people do this because they think this is the risky area of the face. This approach is wrong – the whole face and neck needs covering.
Some sunscreen facts we feel you should know…
Sunscreen DOES NOT give 100 per cent protection – it can’t block out all the sun’s harmful rays. So, don’t spend too much time in sun. Especially stay out the sun when it is at its strongest (in the UK it is between 11am and 3pm – for other countries – look it up on the web). Get into the shade and cover up – wear some loose clothing.
You should not think of sunscreen as an alternative to avoiding the sun or covering up. It is used in addition. Sunscreens should not be used to allow you to remain in the sun for longer – use them only to give yourself greater protection. Remember – no sunscreen is 100% effective and so it provides less protection than clothes or shade.
Some experts think that the increased use of sunscreen lotions and creams may give a false sense of security. This may encourage people to go into the sun more and, as a result, cause an increase in your risk of developing skin cancers. It has to be emphasised that sunscreen only partially protects your skin. Using sunscreen does not mean that you can sunbathe for long periods without harm. If you tan then remember – you have done some damage to your skin.
Sunscreens can go off and not work after a time. Therefore, do not use out-of-date sunscreen (see the use by date on the bottle). Most have a shelf-life of 2-3 years.
Being kept in the sun can cause deterioration of the active protective ingredients in sunscreen. Be wary of buying bottles of sunscreen that have been kept on a shelf in direct sunlight or outside in hot countries. Try to keep your sunscreen somewhere cool and shaded.
Reflected light can damage too. On sunny days, even if you are in the shade, sun can reflect on to your skin. Sand, water, concrete and snow are good reflectors of sunlight. Even if you are swimming in a pool or snorkelling in the sea, you can still get burnt.
Many clothes worn in hot weather (such as thin T-shirts) actually allow a lot of sunlight through. You need to wear tightly-woven clothes to protect from the sun’s rays. If you can see light through a fabric, then damaging UV rays can get through too.
How can you tell how strong the sun is today? Is it how hot the day is or how bright the day is?
It is not the heat that does the damage but the UV radiation in sunlight, which is present all year. So it’s the brightness that matters – even if there are light clouds in the sky, there can still be a lot of UV radiation coming through – don’t be fooled. On a cloudy day 30 to 50 per cent of the sun’s UV rays reach your skin, so it’s still possible to burn. And on a windy day, you may not feel the sun’s rays – but they still cause damage!
You can also get a lot of exposure to UV doing winter sports, such as skiing, as it is often done in sunny weather and at high altitudes. In particular, remember ice and snow reflect a lot of sunlight.
A lot of weather services will now give you an Ultraviolet Radiation Index. This tells you how sunny it is today. It goes from 0 (minimal) to 10 (very high). Sometimes the scale goes up to 15 (for very hot areas). Look it up online –
- Type the following into Google: UV Index + name of your city
- Click on the weatheronline.co.uk link or the metoffice link.
- I typed in ‘UV Index Leeds’ and got a reading of 3 for today (13.8.16).
- ‘UV Index Barcelona’ gave a score of 8 for today!
- And with weatherline – it will predict then next 8 days as well as give you all the weather and things.
- The iphone has an app called UV Index.
To understand the UV Index…
- Minimal: Index of 0-2; very fair people may burn after 30 minutes. Darker-skinned people considered safe up to two hours.
- Low: Index of 3-4; fair people can spend 15 minutes in the sun. Others face damage after 75 to 90 minutes.
- Moderate: Index of 5-6; fair-skinned people shouldn’t stay outside without protection for more than 10 minutes. Those with darker skins can spend 60 minutes catching rays, but no more.
- High: Index of 7-9; safe time only 7 minutes for the pale. Others should be safe for 30 minutes. In addition to sunglasses, sunscreen and hats, people should try to stay in the shade.
- Very High: Index of 10 and up; light-skinned exposure should not exceed 4 minutes. For others, 20 minutes.
So, get into the habit of keeping track of the UV index. It is something we should pay more attention to – especially people who work outdoors. Clouds may give a false sense of security. Most of the UV radiation from sunshine still comes through thin cloud. Thick cloud provides some protection, but you still need protection when there is thin cloud.
I work out doors in the sun. What can I do to protect myself?
- Understand your skin type (above).
- Get into the habit of looking up the UV index each day.
- Then do as the advice under the skin type (above) tells you.
- Always wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 (unless it is moderately hot – UV index 5 or above – in which case put on SPF 30).
- Cover up as much of your body as you can.
- So, you should wear a hat (to protect your face).
- Lip balm containing an SPF to protect the skin on your mouth.
- Sunglasses to protect your eyes (sun can trigger off cataracts later on)
A quick note on covering up and clothing
Do cover up as much of your skin as possible. We are not saying you need to cover yourself up like a mummy and spoil your holiday! But going out topless and staying in the sun for long periods without sunscreen creams is asking for trouble .
By covering up – we mean cover your legs, arms, chest and belly. But don’t wear something see-through. Thin clothing can still allow a lot of light through (and hence the sun’s rays) and still cause skin damage. The rule is simple – wear clothing that you can’t see your hand through. By all means wear something loose to allow the air to circulate and your body to breathe.
And of course, a wide brimmed hat to protect your face and wrap around sunglasses to protect your eyes completes the picture! The only thing you need to do then is put a sunscreen cream on the exposed skin areas – face, hands, feet (arms too if exposed).
What are the warning signs that I’ve been out in the sun too long?
- Heat – your skin feels warm to the touch, even when you try to cool it with water.
Even mild reddening of the skin is an indication that your skin is now burning! You can test for this reddening:
- press your thumb against your skin
- lifting it will reveal a white area
- if this turns red again quickly, you have spent too long in the sun.
Here are some pictures of people whose skin is burning in the sun. Notice the first picture – if you skin is getting even just mildly red – you are starting to burn. And if you can draw on your skin (like the picture below), again, get out of the sun – you are starting to burn. Never let your kids get red as illustrated in one of these pictures. And the last two pictures are examples of extreme sunburn – but you should never allow your skin to get anywhere near to that state.
What should I do if me or the kids end up getting sunburn?
There is nothing that can be done to prevent the skin damage done (except getting out of the sun as early as possible and keeping out of the sun for the following 2 weeks). The following treatment only helps ease the symptoms.
- Keep sunburned areas cool: Apply cold compresses dampened with cool water or take a cool bath.
- Keep the affected areas moist: Apply aloe or moisturizing cream to the affected skin. Avoid products containing alcohol, which dry out skin.
- If your skin blisters: Leave blisters intact, don’t burst them, it will slow healing and increase the risk of infection. Cooling compresses soaked in milk are helpful. If blisters burst, blister adhesives or wound dressings from your local pharmacy or drugstore may be helpful.
- Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication: If needed, take anti-inflammatory medication — such as ibuprofen. This will help control discomfort and swelling.
- If your skin peels: This is the sloughing of the top layer of damaged skin. While your skin is peeling, continue to use moisturizing cream.
Tell me more about skin cancer and the different types
There are three main types of skin cancer –
- a melanoma,
- a squamous cell cancer and
- a basal cell cancer.
Of these, sunscreen creams protect against melanomas and squamous cell cancers. There is little evidence to say that sunscreen creams are effective in preventing basal cell cancer – even though they occur on sun-exposed areas of the body (especially the face) too.
The deadliest of these skin cancers is a melanoma – it’s the nastiest because if not picked up early, it can spread very quickly to other organs. It’s surprising how such a small little thing can do so much damage. The outlook for squamous cell carcinoma is much better – nowhere near as bad as a melanoma because it is generally a much slower growing cancer. However, it still needs picking up early otherwise it will eventually spread. The basal cell cancer is the least deadly because it usually grows very slowly. Again, it still needs picking up because if left untreated, it will eventually spread. Not surprisingly, basal cell cancers have the best cure rate, followed by the squamous cell cancer. The cure rate for both basal cell and squamous cell cancer approaches 95%. So, in summary, a melanoma is the worst type of skin cancer, followed by a squamous cell cancer, and then the basal cell cancer.
The good news is that the commonest type of skin cancer is the basal cell, followed by the squamous cell and then the melanoma (i.e. in reverse order to their deadliness). However, please don’t let this reassure you too much. Melanomas are on the increase. Every year, more and more people are affected. So, you need to keep an eye out.
What do these types of skin cancer look like?
- Basal call cancer starts as a small lump and as it develops gets shiny or pearly edges with sometimes a depressed or sunken central area. A bit like a crater on the moon. They don’t usually hurt. And they can become ulcerated.
- Squamous cell cancers look like a crusty or scaly ulcer. Or it may be bumpy and hard to start off with.
- Melanomas are often pigmented (have a mixture of brown shades and black). The are irregular in shape. There is more about them below.
- Click here for images of these types of cancers.
How do I tell whether one of my moles is turning into a melanoma skin cancer?
Melanomas can just appear or develop in a mole or freckle that you already have. The ABCDE list helps you know what to look for in a mole to see whether it is becoming a melanoma.
- A – Asymmetrical moles – a melanoma is irregular in shape (i.e. not a smooth oval or circular shape)
- B – Border of a mole – a melanoma has blurred or has jagged edges
- C – Colour of a mole – a melanoma has more than one colour (often shades of brown and/or black in them)
- D – Diameter (width) – melanoma moles are usually larger than 7mm
- E – Evolving – melanoma moles often change (evolve).
If you have a mole with ANY of these features, or if you have any marks on your skin or a mole that tingles or bleeds, visit your GP straight away.
Below is a picture of one type of dangerous skin cancer called a melanoma. Notice how irregular it is in shape and how it is full of different brown colours. This is a zoomed in picture; skin cancers can be big or small.
These two pictures are of the same mole. This mole is a nasty melanoma. On the left is the mole in its natural state. On the right, I have tried to highlight what to look out for. Of course, follow the ABCDE principles above. In this picture, I’ve focused on ABC in this picture (but D and E are important too): (A) the mole is ASSYMETRICAL, (B) the mole has an IRREGULAR border – which looks higgledy piggledy, (C) the mole has more than one COLOUR in it – it is not a uniform shade of brown – but instead has a mixture of different shades of brown and in this particular example, black too!
I’ve got moles on my skin – and now you’ve got me all worried! Should I do self-checks?
We don’t mean to get you too worried – we just want to help protect you by giving you the power to look after yourself. If you’ve got a lot of moles, then please start doing monthly self-skin examinations. It will help you get familiar with your moles and in the future help you to spot moles that have changed.
- The best time to do a self-examination is right after a bath or shower.
- Make sure the room has bright light.
- Use a full-length mirror or a hand-held one.
- Go over your moles, birthmarks and blemishes – and observe what they look like.
- Every month – go through this procedure and determine whether any has changed in size, texture, colour or ulceration. If any have – please see your GP straight away.
How do I look at moles in hard to reach areas?
- Use a full-length mirror – much easier to see your back.
- Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
- Don’t forget the upper arms, shoulders, your armpits, groin, upper legs and bum.
- Sit down to look at your feet – especially the soles and the nails.
- Get a loved one to help you.
Other things the sun can do – cataracts! Get some decent sunglasses.
Well, it’s true – repeated heavy sun exposure can trigger of cataracts later on in life. That’s why you should wear sunglasses – especially the wrap-around ones. They will also help protect against skin around the eyes from sunburn. Make sure the sunglasses conform to the European Standard, indicated by the CE mark (or equivalent) and are labelled as providing protection against UVA and UVB light. And get some sunglasses for your kids too (6 months upwards).
Did you know the sun also ages you very quickly!
If you want to avoid wrinkles and skin damage, the best protection is to stay in the shade. Now here is a statistic will shock you – the sun is responsible for a whopping 80 percent of the visible signs of ageing on your face. Yes 80% of your wrinkles and brown spots are because of the sun! Now, we don’t often get much sun in the UK – so imagine the skin damage caused by going to a hot climate like Spain – it will super speed up the ageing process.
We know people love to uncover in the sun and absorb the rays, but the very same rays are extremely good at ageing your skin. Listen up – we are not here to be kill joy – all we are saying is that if you want to bathe in the sun, then do so responsibly. And here are our tips.
- If you want to sun bathe, please only do so for short periods of times. Do not bathe in the sun for hours. You don’t need to be in the sun all day to get a tan.
- Try not to sunbathe during 10am-2pm when the sun’s rays are at their most intense. Intense sunbathing is the most damaging.
- Please try to cover up – especially those areas where you have moles. If you know your skin is likely to burn, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat (to protect your face) and sunglasses (to protect your eyes).
- Please put on sun protection creams and lotions with SPF of at least 30. And keep putting it on every 2 hours. If you don’t like looking ‘white’ all day, there are creams that absorb into transparency. Ask your pharmacist or sun cream supplier.
This is a photograph of the same person – the picture in colour is in normal light and the second one has been taken under ultraviolet photography. Ultraviolet photography helps to show up skin damage.
Now this is the interesting bit. Half of his face has got sunscreen on it and the other half hasn’t. Can you see the skin damage to the unprotected side? It’s shocking isn’t it!
In fact, the next time you are on holiday or even just somewhere sunny in the UK (does it get sunny in the UK?) – put some sun glasses on. Look at different people and you will notice people whose skin are particularly ‘red looking’ and therefore burning in the sun. Look at those same people with the sunglasses off – notice how to the naked eye – they just don’t look out of the ordinary!
The sun is silent and invisible. A bit of it is good for you but too much is really bad – just like most things in life.
Isn’t most sun damage to the skin done by age 18?
No – not true at all. Yes, people get the most of their sun exposure before the age of 18 (thanks to all that time playing outdoors) BUT it would be wrong to conclude that all the skin damage is therefore done by that age. Sun damage which causes wrinkles, discolouration and skin cancers happens steadily throughout your life. In a study by the American Society for Photobiology, Americans acquire only 23% of their sun damage by age 18. They then get another 10% every 10 years after that. So – never think you’ve already blown it, the damage is done – it’s not true.
So – if I put sunscreen cream on nearly everyday (i.e. not just on holidays) – will it protect me and slow down the visible ageing process?
Here’s an interesting statistic for you. Did you know that if you used a cream every day in your life with an SPF of 15 or more (anything less is useless), you would reduce your ageing process by about 25%? Of course, SPF 15 is no good when you go on holiday to somewhere hot like Spain – switch to SPF 30.
A 2013 study concluded that the diligent, everyday application of sunscreen can slow or temporarily prevent the development of wrinkles and sagging skin. The study involved 900 white people in Australia putting on a sunscreen every day for four and a half years. It found that people who did so had noticeably more resilient and smoother skin than those assigned to continue their usual practices. Hughes, MCB; Williams, GM; Baker, P; Green, AC (June 4, 2013). “Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging”. Annals of Internal Medicine. 158 (11): 781–790.
Doesn’t the sun help you make vitamin D? If I put on sunscreen every day, won’t I become low in vitamin D?
- Typical use of sunscreen does not usually result in vitamin D deficiency; however, extensive usage may.
- It is estimated that, to prevent deficiency of vitamin D, we need 2-3 sun exposures per week in the summer months (April to September). Each exposure should last 5-20 minutes and be to bare arms and face.
- Fair skin may only need 5-10 mins whilst darker skin will need more exposure (15-20 mins). It is recommended that fair-skinned people who avoid the sun rigorously to reduce the risk of skin cancer should consider supplementing their intake of vitamin D. You should discuss this with your doctor to be sure you are not taking too much vitamin D, which may cause harm.
- Short frequent periods of time in the sun are much more beneficial than long periods of time.
- It needs to be exposure to direct sunlight and not through a window nor a sun-bed. Sunburn should be avoided at all costs.
- If you’re worried, you can always get a vitamin D blood level check once a year from the nurse at your GP surgery.
- Many foods are also fortified with vitamin D such as milk. Dietary sources include milk, cereal, yogurt, and orange juice fortified with vitamin D as well as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
Are sunbeds safe?
The reason why the sun causes skin cancer is because it has something called UV rays which can change things in your skin. And sunbeds use UV rays too. So sunbeds or using tanning booths do increase your risk of skin cancer in the same way as lying half-naked in the sun does. Actually, studies have shown that sunbed use can make you much more likely to get all types of skin cancer. A research paper in the International Journal of Cancer in March 2007 reviewed 19 published studies on the association of tanning beds and skin cancers. They found use of the tanning beds before age 35 boosted the risk of melanoma by 75%. Now that’s a lot – don’t you think? Tanning also causes pemature ageing of the skin. Whether the exposure is indoors (sunbeds) or outdoors (the natural sun), ultraviolet exposure over time causes what doctors call “photo-aging,” or in simple terms – wrinkles, brown spots and a leathery look.
- There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is the skin’s response to the damaging rays and is therefore an indicator of UV damage.
- If you are desperate for a tan, consider a fake tan from a bottle. They are very good these days. Some fake tans are bronzers that simply stain the skin and can be washed off. Other products contain a chemical that reacts with the skin to give a tanned colour. The long-term effects of these chemicals are not yet known. However, they seem to be safer than tanning in the sun or under a sunbed.
- A fake tan is not a sunscreen, and, if you plan to go out in the sun, you will need to apply one.
And watch out for heat stroke and heat exhaustion
This happens when the temperature inside the body rises to up to 40°C. Our normal body temperature is about 37°C. These few extra degrees can be deadly! Heat exhaustion can come on suddenly. A person may just collapse when playing soccer or tennis, for example. Or it might make you feel sick, have headaches, sweat excessively and feel faint. It can leave someone feeling really tired for days after it happens. The body is losing water and becoming dehydrated. If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke which can be serious. Children: kids get heat exhaustion too. A kid with heat exhaustion might feel overheated, tired and weak.
The treatment for heat exhaustion is to move swiftly to a cool place, out of direct sunlight, and to drink plenty of cool fluids. Recovery should happen quickly, usually within 30 minutes, and there are no long-term complications. If you have heat exhaustion, or are looking after someone with heat exhaustion, and improvement is not occurring, it is important to seek urgent medical advice.
Heatstroke (also called Sunstroke) – see a doctor urgently!
Heatstroke occurs when the core body temperature rises above 40°C. It is serious and considered a medical emergency. The cells in the body begin to break down, important bodily functions stop working, internal organs can fail (such as the brain) and, in extreme cases, death can occur.
The person might become sick (vomiting), confused, uncoordinated, have fast shallow breathing (hyperventilation) and lose consciousness. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and you should summon immediate medical help (call 999/112/911 for an ambulance – depending which country you are in). Treatment for heatstroke in a hospital involves cooling the body to lower the core temperature, and using an intravenous drip to replace the fluids lost.
One last thing… drink enough water and keep hydrated.
Drinking water is an important part of staying healthy, especially when it’s hot outside. When it’s hot, you sweat! When you’re sweating, you lose water that your body needs to work properly. And if you’re walking a fair distance, running, exercising, or playing a sport in the sun, you lose even more water, because you sweat that much more. So drink up and don’t wait until you’re thirsty — drinking before you feel thirsty helps keep the water level in your body from dropping too low (dehydration) when it’s hot or you’re sweating a lot with exercise. If you forget and suddenly feel thirsty, start drinking then.
Try to drink about 5 little bottles of water a day (by a little bottle, we mean those 500ml ones – the same size as handheld Coke or Pepsi bottles).
The sun is a good thing for our planet – it would die without it. But like all things in life – too much can be a bad thing for each of us on an individual level. Sunlight tends to improve our general well-being and make us happier. It does this by causing us to produce more of a “happy hormone” called serotonin. Physical activities and exercise outdoors are good for us, and we need to balance that against our wish to avoid skin damage and skin cancer. The way to balance the good and bad effects of the sun is to enjoy the sun safely. This means using all the tips above. So enjoy being out in the sun when it is not so strong. Have short times out in the sun, rather than spending a long time exposed to it, especially in the hotter times of the day and year. When you have to be out in the middle of the day, use protection such as sun creams, hats, sunglasses, clothing and shade. If you want a tanned skin, consider a fake tan cream. Protecting your skin in this way will keep it young-looking and healthy. Enjoy the sunshine, but keep yourself safe.