If you want to enjoy sunlight safely this summer, there are some basic sun protection tips you need to know.
If you’ve just booked a summer vacation somewhere hot this year, chances are you’ve gone with the expectation of enjoying the sun – not for it to ruin your trip! Ignoring sun protection guidelines and being too exposed to the sun’s rays can cause sunburn, dehydration, heatstroke, and premature aging, not to mention increasing your risk of melanoma (skin cancer) and it can even damage your eyesight.
Read on for our top 10 sun protection tips on staying safe in the sun.
1. SPF Sensibly
Wearing sunscreen: it’s the 101 of sun protection! By now, we all know the dangers of not applying sunscreen, but despite this, many of us still aren’t applying it correctly.
Common mistakes include not using enough product (you should aim to apply around 2mg of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin) and not using a high enough Sun Protection Factor (SPF) for your skin type.
As a general rule, even darker skins shouldn’t use anything lower than SPF 30 and those who burn easily should consider using a full sunblock to prevent exposure altogether.
2. Don’t Forget your Head
Even though we take great care to slather our bodies in sunscreen lotion, we often forget about our scalps. This much-neglected area (which takes the brunt of direct sunshine) cannot be protected by just your hair alone and burning is a particular risk if you have thinning or balding hair.
Protect the delicate scalp skin by applying a layer of SPF to your visible partings and ears, and covering up the rest with a wide-brimmed hat.
3. Safe Swimming
Swimming can cause the sunscreen you applied to wash off and lose its effectiveness. Take total precautions against decreased SPF lotion effectiveness – particularly with children who are likely to want to spend a lot of time in the water – by investing in swimming clothing which carries a UV barrier protection factor.
4. Beware Afternoon Sun
Covering up, along with proper sunscreen application, is one of the basic sun protection tips and the best ways to prevent skin damage.
However, late afternoon/evening sun can still be hazardous when it comes to risking a nasty sunburn. Although UVA and B rays aren’t as strong as the 11am-4pm sunshine hours of the day (where sun exposure should be avoided altogether), the sun’s rays still pose a risk.
If you’re going out for a late lunch/early dinner, bring a cover-up with you. A twin-set can be a great way to switch between the heat and evening cool, while also protecting the skin around your arms and shoulders.
5. Seek Shades
Sunglasses not only look great and compliment your outfit, but they also give your eyes sun protection and prevent exposure to the UVA/UVB rays.
UVA and UVB light radiation can damage your inner eye tissues leading to cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae (growths on the surface of the eyeball), pterygia (AKA “Surfer’s Eye”) and photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea).
Avoid looking directly at the sun (this doesn’t mean you have to give up sun-gazing if you know how to do it safely!) and ensure you only wear sunglasses with lenses that offer 100% total UVA/UVB protection.
6. Hydrate Frequently
It goes without saying that one of the most important things to do in hot weather is to keep topping up your H2O levels. Hydration is necessary to replace the fluid your body sweats out during the course of the day, particularly in hot weather, so always bring some drinks with you.
Nothing can beat water for the ultimate body hydration, but if you get bored of the bland taste, switch to some unsweetened coconut water or a sugar-free electrolyte drink.
7. Avoid Alcohol!
Even though you’re on holiday and might be tempted, alcohol does NOT do your body any favors in the sunshine! As well as dehydrating you quicker, it can loosen your inhibitions when it comes to taking adequate care around protecting against the sun and lead to sunburn.
If you must drink alcohol, try pairing it with meals and doing so in a shaded area, and be sure to drink plenty of water alongside your favorite tipple.
8. Never “Pre-game” a Tan
In a society obsessed with looks, some people are self-conscious about the idea of arriving at a sunny place with their winter-pale skin and looking out of place. If you do feel the urge to give nature’s tan a helping hand, reach for the fake tan and never a sunbed!
Even with a layer of SPF beforehand (which sunbed-users seldom do), sunbeds expose your skin to excessive levels of skin cancer and wrinkle-causing UV rays, which can be harmful even in small doses. Better pale than sorry!
9. Cooling Off Period
If you feel yourself getting too hot, step out into the shade for a while. Take a cold shower or dip in the sea, enjoy an ice cream in an air-conditioned café, and drink plenty of fluids to take your body temperature back down to normal.
Overheating can cause a condition called heatstroke that can lead to hospitalization in severe cases, so take care to look out for the signs and symptoms and seek medical attention if you suspect a case.
10. Avoid Marathon Sunbathing
Tan is great (and for many of us, part of the joy of a sunshine getaway), but it is definitely never worth risking you or your family’s health for.
When lying beside the pool or at the beach, choose a spot that has an equal amount of shade-to-sun on offer (such as a sun lounger with umbrella), so that you can take breaks between extended periods of laying out in the harsh rays and seeking shade if you need to.
These umbrellas might cost a little extra to hire, but when you return from vacation with a healthy brown glow rather than embarrassing red patches and peeling skin, you’ll be very pleased with your decision!